This is Part 1 of Chapter 12 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Valentine's Day" , the previous chapter.
The narrator is Ron Rosenblum, and features Brian, Jimmy Hardy, Ross Preston, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: It's February 2002 and Ron's film, 'The Olympian,' is in big trouble.
Author Notes: 'The Olympian' is based on a real book and its film production non-history (the film was never actually made for the very reasons outlined here), making this a bit of a roman a clef. Those familiar with gay literature of the Seventies should recognize the source fairly easily; I've changed some of the details for dramatic purposes.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
I was thoroughly convinced that something had to give in this situation.
Something. And soon.
My picture, 'The Olympian' -- the one I'd spent the last two years of my life trying to get into production -- was in big trouble. I was in big trouble.
Brian and I were in big trouble.
Of course, as I look back, it's obvious that all the main characters I've written in my films -- all the objects of lust or desire or romance or whatever you want to call it -- were based on 'Jack.' Or my idealization of 'Jack.' The dog walker/hustler, the suburban teenager, the tourist from the Midwest. Yes, even Bobby in the first draft of 'The Olympian' -- so much so that the plot kept changing as I was writing, getting further and further away from the novel and more and more driven by the relationship between Bobby and Guy. Not that anyone cared. That kind of 'revision' is par for the course in the Business. But the rewrites since December have been more and more obviously Brian. Jimmy's been teasing me about it -- rightly so. But I think it's made for a better script. A more interesting, tougher character. A more sexual character.
And there's the rub. Ross Preston. He was skittish enough with the way the script was before. He took the part -- knowing what the subject was, knowing what his character was and what he would have to do in this film -- and then he balked. Now he was in open rebellion.
Casting was an ordeal from the beginning. Regardless of having one of the biggest names in Hollywood -- Jimmy Hardy -- producing and starring in the picture, agents didn't want to send their clients to read for the part of Bobby. Hell, my own agency didn't want to send their young actors even to read. Jimmy and I would talk to actors casually -- actors who were eager to do the part. Gay actors. Straight actors. Bi actors. Undecided actors. They would take the script and then we'd never hear anything more. Or we'd hear that they were excited about the role. And then... their agent would panic. Or their wife. Or boyfriend. Or mother. Or Cocker Spaniel. Then it would be 'this just isn't the right time' or 'I can't play this and expose myself this way' and 'if I play this everyone will know' -- right down the line.
When Ross Preston said yes it was like a miracle. I hadn't been thrilled about his casting in the film, but the studio was big on him. He was a 'hot' young actor -- meaning he had been in a couple of decent films and one blockbuster hit. Of course, the hit was a hit chiefly due to its special effects and the presence of a stellar cast of veteran supporting actors who basically picked Preston up and carried him through the film kicking and screaming.
But we started with great hopes. He was good-looking, he could do the running scenes, he seemed to work well with Jimmy. And then -- the deluge. He began to wimp out. Back off. Step back, physically and emotionally from the scenes -- and from the project. The person who plays this part has to have guts -- like Jimmy does himself. Be willing to take chances. Ross Preston wasn't willing. If we had the time -- or if I'd known ahead just how it would be -- I would go to England and cast there. British actors don't seem to have the fucking hang-ups about playing gay characters that Americans do, with their obsession with macho image. But it was too late for that. Too late, almost, for everything.
After rehearsal today Jimmy came to my office and laid it on the line.
"Listen, Ron. I'm producing this picture. I'm starring in this picture. And I'm doing it practically for scale because I believe in the project. In the Seventies when Charlie Bowman optioned the book everyone said it would be a landmark picture: the first major Hollywood production about gay characters in which they weren't psychos or perverts or suicides or pitiful, self-hating cranks. Charlie wanted to make the film like a classic buddy flick -- with sex. And make it with his screen partner, Grant Carson. But Carson balked. The studio balked. Fuck! Everyone balked! And, consequently, no 'Olympian' in the Seventies. Or the Eighties. Or the fucking Nineties! When Charlie let me buy out his option, he said, 'I hope you have better luck than I did getting this film made.' Little did I know!"
"Jimmy, I appreciate what you've had to deal with to get the project this far."
"Now, I promised you when we did 'Liberty' that I'd do a film with you where we wouldn't compromise. Wouldn't pull punches. I've committed to do some scenes here that, frankly, will freak out my fans. They freak ME out, in a lot of ways. But that's all right, because it's part of the character of Guy to have his sexuality challenged, awakened, whatever. He SHOULD be freaked out. He HAS to be freaked out to be shocked out of his complacency. But he needs that catalyst -- I need it as an actor. I'm committed to doing the scenes and doing them right." He paused, letting me know just how serious this all was. I felt an anxiety attack coming on.
"But... and here's the BIG but -- I don't think Ross Preston can do this part. I don't think he can play this character. He hasn't shown in any of the rehearsals or scene readings or in just talking things out with him that he understands just WHAT he has to do here -- or that he's capable of doing it! And that pisses me off! Because I'm totally committed! I mean, I'm showing my ass in this film! I'll probably end up showing my dick and who would have believed THAT when I was accepting the Oscar? Not me! This is the kind of shit you usually have to do BEFORE you get famous!"
"You're an actor, Jimmy. You can do anything. That's why you GOT the Oscar."
"Stroke me some more, Ron -- I need it after today, that's for sure. I mean, if I was someone who was so -- naturally comfortable with my own sexuality... someone like Brian, for instance, it would be so much easier." Jimmy was looking at me strangely. "I mean, Brian is so 'fuck you' about himself -- nothing bothers him. And he certainly wouldn't have the reservations that I do about showing my dick to the world. Hell, he'd probably show it proudly!"
I was beginning to feel uncomfortable with the direction this conversation was taking. Jimmy had mentioned Brian in connection with the film a number of times in the last week and I wasn't certain what he was driving at.
"And he'd certainly be able to show Ross how to do a scene like the one between Bobby and Guy in the locker-room. Or the one in the motel. The character of Bobby can't have any hesitation in those scenes. None. He's gotta take the bull by the horns, so to speak. You know what I mean? Ross can't do that. He doesn't know how to begin to do it."
Jimmy was leading me around to something. I knew it. I'd been working with him long enough to know that. But... "Well," I said, trying to think of something. Anything. "What if... what if I brought Brian in? Like, into the rehearsal?" The minute the words were out of my mouth I wanted to take them back. Would give anything to take them back. But it was too late.
"Brian? To do what exactly?" He walked over to me and sat on my desk.
"To coach Ross. You know, like the guys we've hired to coach him in the running scenes? He could -- give Ross some indication of what he has to do."
Jimmy took hold of my shoulder, smiling with all his teeth. He looked positively feral. "Ah, ha! You mean, bring Brian in to show Ross how to fuck me on camera? Right?"
"Why not?" I said, suddenly feeling like he'd been bringing me down this path all along. And I went. Jimmy was leaning on me, now, literally and figuratively. "The character of Bobby is based on Brian. You know that, I've admitted that. If he can't demonstrate what Bobby is all about, then who can?"
Jimmy leaned back, grinning. "You are completely nuts, you know that, Ron? But I like it! Let's do it!"
"You can't be serious, Jimmy. I mean...."
"Why not? If Ross can't do it in the rehearsal, then he sure as hell won't be able to do it on the set. And if he can't do it on the set -- then our movie is screwed, Ron. It's a no go. There is NO time to recast or postpone this thing. I'm due to start filming with Spielberg in July in New York. And if we aren't finished with this thing before then -- then it isn't going to happen. And that would break my heart, Ron, but that's the reality here."
"I know. I know!"
"Can you see the credit for this little bit of expertise? 'Brian Kinney: Technical Advisor'? That should be about right!" Jimmy was laughing at himself, very pleased.
"Right." I tried to imagine what Brian would call it.
"So -- Do you think he'll do it?"
"I don't know. He's done... well...." I paused and took a breath. "Yes, he'll do it. If I ask him to, he'll do it."
Jimmy stood up. "Fan-fucking-tastic, Ron! Tomorrow, then. We'll see if Ross Preston can put the pedal to the metal, so to speak." He gave me a companionable pat on the back.
"So to speak."
"So that's the proposal."
"And you really want me to do this?"
"Well... yes." I was sitting at the desk in my office at home. Brian was pacing back and forth like a panther in a cage, his green eyes darting back and forth. I was getting more and more uncomfortable.
"And this was... your idea? Your 'plan'?"
"Um... actually, it was Jimmy's idea," I lied. I felt like a real shit. And a coward.
"This was Jimmy Hardy's idea? Jimmy? He thinks this is the way to 'improve' your movie? HIS movie?"
"Well, to improve that blockhead Ross Preston's performance -- yes."
He stopped pacing. "Yes. Nice. Sure. Why not? Why would it occur to me that anyone would think anything else? That you or Jimmy Hardy would think of me any other way? I should be glad to be of use in some small way. That I'm useful for SOMETHING in the end."
"No, don't say anything. This is something I'm sure I can handle. I'm honored that you're giving me the job instead of having to call out for someone. That could be difficult to explain on a fucking expense account!"
I got up and tried to follow him around the room, but he eluded me, going out the door and towards the pool.
"Brian -- Brian! This has nothing to do with YOU!" He was circling the pool, his head down.
"No! It has to do with the character of Bobby! Who better to show Ross what he has to do -- what his character is supposed to be...."
He stopped circling.
"Than me? I see. Brian. Jack. Bobby. What difference does it make?" He stalked up and got into my face. "My name, Ron? What do you want it to be, huh? HUH? Fuck you!"
"Brian -- it isn't like that at all and you know it!"
"No! This IS what it's about, isn't it, Ron? About how you'll never see me any other way, will you Ron? Will you?"
"Diane -- you know, Jerry Whatsis's little 'client'? My drinking buddy? -- she told me some very interesting things the other day. About how everyone at the agency -- your agency, the same one whose big party you took me to -- just automatically assumed that I was some hustler you picked up in New York. Automatically. Because of your well-known propensity for the hired help." He shook his head. "That one brought me up short. That one I didn't see coming. No wonder you didn't have any 'long-term' relationships in all those years! And you had me -- ME! -- feeling so guilty because you were so lonely all those years, pining away. Shit! What an ass I am not to have realized!" He gave me a push and began pacing back and forth again, trapped.
"I don't know what that bitch said to you, but are you going to believe her instead of me? Believe a bunch of agency gossip and b.s.?"
"Why not? It made perfect sense to me."
"You jump to too many damned conclusions -- that is your fucking problem."
"Oh, MY problem? Yeah, my problem." He was smirking, but it was a bitter expression. "I wondered why you didn't seem to give a shit about my tricking. You really didn't. And I thought, well, he's just being realistic about it. Being realistic about the way things are -- not like a bunch of hypocritical straights who have to pledge their undying, et cetera, but then cheat all over town and fucking lie about it up and down. But it wasn't that at all. It was how you saw me. ME."
"And was I wrong, then?"
"NO! But you should have been! You should have been wrong. You have expected more out of me, like...."
"Like that other guy you left? Like that? That really worked out well for you, huh?"
He stalked over to the bar and picked up one of the stools and sent it flying across the deck. It rolled and came to rest against the hedge.
"Fuck that! And fuck you! It's ME! I should have been different. Somehow. And now it's all fucked up, Ron. All fucked up!"
He suddenly looked exhausted. And exposed. Defenseless. I wanted to go over to him, but I held myself back. Another cowardly act. Another heartless act. I began to wonder what had happened to me in all those years to have made me in this. Who actually was the more damaged here?
He slid down into the lounge chair and stared up at the sky. The constellations were actually visible, it was that clear, with a slight chill in the air that reminded you that it was winter in the real world. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and his Zippo. He lit one and blew smoke rings while I stood there, waiting.
And this is what it came down to. The choice between my lover and my film.
"Tomorrow evening, Brian. Jimmy has reshoots from his last picture during the day, so they're rehearsing in the evening." I waited. He didn't say anything. "A car will come by and pick you up around six. I'll meet you over at the set at seven. Jimmy and Ross should be there by then."
I left him sitting by the pool.
Continue on to "Shoot the Moon -- Part 2" , the next section.
©Gaedhal, May 2002
Pictures of Gale Harold from Flaunt and Showtime.
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Updated May 15, 2002