The new movie Red, White, & Royal Blue shines with a rainbow of colors thanks to the queer-focused storyline and diverse team involved in bringing non-binary author Casey McQuiston's first New York Times best-selling novel to life.
That crew included out and proud Greg Berlanti as producer and gay playwright Matthew López who debuts as director for Red, White, & Royal Blue as his first feature film. Lopez achieved past success in the theater world and is the first Latin writer to win the Tony Award for Best Play with The Inheritance. His other off-Broadway credits include The Whipping Man and The Legend of Georgia McBride.
Red, White, & Royal Blue is a love story between Alex Claremont-Diaz, played by Taylor Zakhar Perez, and Prince Henry, portrayed by actor Nicholas Galitzine. Alex is the Mexican American son of a president named Ellen Claremont, depicted by Uma Thurman. With politics and public personas involved, these relationships go way beyond just being complicated.
López gave a behind-the-scenes interview about his project shortly before the upcoming release date.
Windy City Times: Hi, Matthew. We should have met already because your co-writing stint for the musical version of Some Like It Hot would have brought you to Chicago for the premiere in New York.
Matthew López: Yes, COVID cut those plans short and it didn't happen.
WCT: It is back on track now and will be coming here in the fall of 2024.
ML: The tour will eventually be there in Chicago!
WCT: When did you first hear of Red, White, & Royal Blue?
ML: I read the book in early 2020, soon after it was published in 2019. My agent said to me that I should read it and I would like it. I fell madly in love with it from the beginning. I read it in a day and a half. I was looking for projects, and I knew this was the one. I pursued the job shamelessly!
WCT: What were the challenges in making the film from the book? Were there parts from the book that were difficult to cut out?
ML: It was a very simple and straightforward thing for me. This is a movie about Alex and Henry. I had two hours to tell the tale. The mandate was it needed to help me understand Alex's journey with Henry for it to go in the movie. If it doesn't, then it comes out of the movie.
We shot a lot of scenes that were in the book, but once in the editing room, I realized what we didn't need. I looked at it from the perspective that it was two characters on a journey in two hours. That made it clear what belongs in the movie and what doesn't.
WCT: How did that southern accent from Uma Thurman come about?
ML: She worked with one of the best dialect coaches in the business and she came to me with that. It was so much fun.
Uma came in so prepared and so eager to be there. She was happy to be a part of it and we just had the best time with her. It was a very happy set and that is thanks to Uma in many ways, too.
WCT: Taylor had me at Minx and was so magnetic onscreen with this project.
ML: Taylor is just a dream. He's a special person and a wonderful performer. He understood Alex implicitly. He's very different than Alex, and is shy. There's a sweetness to Taylor.
He could turn himself into a human cannonball. I love that guy, and there is something about him that is so warm. It is hard to take your eyes off of him.
WCT: Rachel Hilson I interviewed for Love, Victor in the past. She seemed very confident in the role of Nora Holleran. Doesn't it feel like she is coming into her own now?
ML: She's the greatest, and so much fun to work with. She had a very specific idea about who Nora was, and we got to play around with the character. She's a special talent.
WCT: Was the part about having a Z in your last name personal or the book?
ML: It was personal. That was about me and Taylor. It came from a conversation that Taylor and I had when making the film.
WCT: What would you like audiences to take away from Red, White, & Royal Blue?
ML: First and last I would like people to be entertained. I want them to have a fun time as well as an emotional experience with this film.
It isn't an accident that my first movie has at its center a young Latino lead. It is a character that I have never encountered in fiction or film before. It was important to me to tell the story of this young man and his journey to self-discovery through the love of this prince.
Whatever we say in the film about the experience of being Latin in America is very intentional. Conversations with Taylor and Clifton Collins Jr., who plays his dad, were about making sure that we didn't hit people over the head with it. We wanted it to be natural and be evident in the characters within the story. We didn't need to point to it but wanted it to be there and be clear.
WCT: Greg Berlanti is known for bringing LGBTQ+ stories to life. How was his company involved with the project?
ML: They had the rights to the book before I came along. I read the book, then I reached out to Greg. He was one of the producers of The Inheritance. I reached out to Greg and Sarah Schechter to tell them I had planned on making this movie and eventually they agreed with me!
WCT: Robbie Taylor Hunt was the intimacy coordinator on the film. How important was that for this film?
ML: It was essential. I think that if someone doesn't like working with intimacy coordinators, then they are missing the point. Robbie was an important partner in creating this. In essence, it was a way of protecting the actors and making them not just feel, but be, safe. It is no different than working with my director of photography or my costume designer. We use stunt coordinators with stunts, so in the same way, I wanted to use an intimacy coordinator.
Robbie helped me articulate what I wanted to show and execute it. He was invaluable to me.
WCT: What musical would you like to make into a movie?
ML: Many have tried, but I have always wanted to take a swing at Follies. I also wish someone would get A Chorus Line right!
WCT: What is coming up for you next?
ML: I am a part of the strike as a writer, so the next thing I need to happen is a fair deal from the studios.
WCT: Any special plans for the release of Red, White, & Royal Blue?
ML: I am turning my phone off. I will go see more than one movie in the cinema. I will let the world have my movie because it doesn't belong to me anymore. I am excited to share it with people. Thanks to Amazon Prime, it will be in over 240 countries simultaneously!
Let your true colors come shining through with a view of Red, White, & Royal Blue on Aug. 11 at primevideo.com .