Director Todd Stephens Strikes Back With Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild
What writer and director Todd Stephens is giving the gay film going populace is a two-fold movie experience.
For an older generation of gay audiences who sat through endless heterosexual “gotta get laid” salacious laugh fests, such as the ’80s staple, Fast Times At Ridgemont High and the film genre’s resurgence, circa 1999 with American Pie, is a chance to revel in the fact that gays need to get a little somethin’ somethin’ onscreen with comedic results, too.
“I loved the teen movies that I grew up with, like Caddyshack and Porky’s, Revenge of the Nerds – those were really big influences on me for the Another Gay movies,” Stephens said during our interview.
In effect, he is also presenting a new generation of gay men with a, ahem, seminal type of filmmaking – one that manages to both pay tribute to those teen movies of the past, and bring something new to the table – a gay perspective, which was sorely lacking from those bygone celluloid romps.
With the exception of Porky’s, very few teen comedies back in the day featured male nudity, and left many gays wondering, “Where’s my gay teen comedy?”
“Well, I’ve tried to fulfill that mission in life,” Stephens stated about his desire to make that type of film.
Coupling bawdy humor and a bevy of male flesh on parade, Stephens struck gold with 2005’s Another Gay Movie, which received high praise from both mainstream publications as Entertainment Weekly to family friendly outlets like, HX Magazine.
Not bad for a very refreshing, non-politically correct gay film that saw one of its main characters having his way with a quiche Lorraine.
As an adult, the 41-year-old film auteur cited John Waters as his biggest cinematic influence, for the two Gay Movies.
But it makes you wonder what type of films Stephens made as a child, and his interest in writing and filmmaking began innocuously enough.
“I started making movies in grade school with my Super 8 camera,” he recanted. “I was always interested in being a director, I guess. I made a couple of films when I was in high school, one of them was a 45 minute slasher movie called Rest in Peace. I decided to go to NYU, and went to film school there.”
Growing up gay in Sandusky, Ohio certainly influenced Stephens enough to pen his first screenplay and one of the better gay coming-of-age films, the 1998 movie Edge of Seventeen, which was set in the ’80s. Stephens also produced Edge, and he said of the film, “it could not have been more autobiographical.”
Stephens was not ready to fully nurture his film baby, and call action on the set quite yet.
“It’s weird, I wasn’t in my right mind at the time, really,” Stephens said of relinquishing directorial duties to David Moreton. “I was the director of the film, and did all of the pre-production, and actually made it a quarter of a way into the shoot. And then basically had an emotional meltdown, for a variety of different reasons, and I felt I was not doing a good job. So, I felt at the time it was in the best interest to give it to somebody else to finish, because I couldn’t go on.
“But, I really think that David carried on the vision, and did an amazing job, and put some fun stuff of his own in – I’m really grateful that he finished the film,” Stephens confided.
Once his confidence was reclaimed, Stephens did tackle directing (and writing) duties on his second Stevie Nicks inspired film, Gypsy 83, in 2001.
This road trip tale of a Nicks-loving Goth duo, consisting of outcasts in the form of a straight female and gay male, who venture to New York City to pay their respects to their idol, at an event called the “Night of a Thousand Stevies.”
As for completing a “Stevie Nicks Song Title Trilogy,” Stephens said, “As much as I love Stevie, I may be done with the Stevie movie titles for the moment – but, who knows?”
Maybe one of the reasons for patrons not seeing Stand Back on their local marquee anytime soon is that Gypsy 83 hit a bit of a stumbling block.
“Gypsy 83 was a little film that I loved, and had a very hard time getting distributed,” Stephens explained. “And I showed it to all of the gay distributors that either distributed, or wanted to distribute my previous film, Edge of Seventeen. And all of the distributors said they really liked it, and film festivals liked it, but the distributors said it wasn’t gay enough, and they didn’t know how to sell it. They didn’t know what the movie poster was.”
This particular instance made Stephens strike back, in a cinematic sense.
“So, that made me very angry, and I basically said, ‘If you want something gay, I’m going to make the gayest movie ever created.’ I was just kind of working out some anger issues through diarrhea scenes, or something,” Stephens joked.
The upside of that anger was, naturally, Another Gay Movie, which followed the literal exploits of four recent high school grads: Andy, Jarod, Griff and Nico, each pledging to lose their virginity by summer’s end.
As previously mentioned, Another Gay Movie and its follow-up Another Gay Sequel, do feature what can only be described as a butt load of male nudity.
Now, you mostly hear the actor’s take on how uncomfortable it can be during the filming of a scene that requires nudity and or a love scene. For the flip side of that, we asked Stephens how it is to be the man calling the shots onset, during these scenes.
“It’s not uncomfortable for me for some reason – just because I don’t let it be,” he stated. “A lot of directors say how they hate doing them; I kind of enjoy it, and find them to be a challenge. I always have the actors rehearse the scene way ahead of time, and tell them what I expect.”
But something that came about unexpectedly was the germination for the sequel, which occurred even before the original film was in the can.
“With the sequel, Eric Eisenbrey, who I co-wrote the story with, and I were filming the ‘Mr. Puckov scene’ in Another Gay Movie; and during a lunch break, we just had this brain storm of what the sequel would be,” he replied. “I think part of the inspiration was that we had more to say with the characters, and to see where they go and follow them.”
As a matter of fact, this time out the Gays are off to sunny Fort Lauderdale for Spring Break, and to compete in the sub-titular Gays Gone Wild portion of the movie by accruing “fuck stamps,” by seeing who can get the most action – now that their pesky virginity is no longer an issue.
And even though the story remains pretty much the same, some of the faces have changed.
This is evidenced in an onscreen mention of three of the four original Gay actors (Michael Carbonaro, Jonathan Chase and Mitch Morris) not partaking in the sequel. The films opens with Nico (Jonah Blechman) having a bad dream, which explains the absence of the three actors with the line, “doing two gay movies in a row, will make people think you’re actually gay.”
Putting this inside joke in his comedy is really no laughing matter to Stephens.
“When we cast Edge of Seventeen back in 1997, it was really difficult to get agents and managers to submit their clients for the film, because they were afraid of them playing gay,” he conveyed. “I would say that it’s really shocking and extremely sad that eleven years later, we are still having the same problem.”
The inclusion was also important to Stephens because “people were owed an explanation,” as he put it.
While its predecessor had its homage ingredients cooked up in a pie of an American flavor, along with sprinklings of extracts from other films such as: Broken Hearts Club, Carrie, Mommie Dearest, and even his own, Edge of Seventeen.
Another Gay Sequel runs the gamut from references to the TV show “The Brady Bunch,” the dark comedy Heathers, gay staple Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, and even a nod to the 1965 Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon flick, “Beach Blanket Bingo.”
And much like its forerunner, which featured cameos and co-starring roles by former “Kids in the Hall” star Scott Thompson, British talk show host Graham Norton, Lypsinka, and porn star, Matthew Rush, among others. The sequel has turns from drag queens RuPaul and Lady Bunny, porn stars Brent Corrigan and Colton Ford, and Perez Hilton.
And, if this film series is to become a trilogy (and it may very well be), Stephens did have a wish list of guest stars to people it.
“Bruce Vilanch, George Takei from “Star Trek” would be really fun,” he answered. “I still have a few more in the back of my mind. But if we do a third one, I think I’m going to start looking at it as this ensemble of actors; then maybe you could cast somebody that had been in the first one to play a different part – and have it be like this gay ensemble.”
And if that weren’t enough gaiety for audiences, Stephens even penned two tunes, “Another Gay Sunshine Day” and “Another Ray of Sunshine,” featured in both Gay incarnations, which are crooned by the legendary Nancy Sinatra.
“It was a dream come true, seriously!” Stephens exclaimed. “We were able to get in touch with her, and she was very receptive. It was just incredible; she’s one of my all-time favorites. We went out to L.A. and recorded the song with her – it was surreal seeing my idol, Nancy Sinatra, singing the lyrics that I wrote.”
Also surreal for Stephens is having the opportunity to be doing a sequel at all, something most gay films do not often get. And, the sequel ups the ante in the gross out department of the original, as there are more than a few raunchy frames of film in Another Gay Sequel.
But the vulgar factor aside, Stephens feels that the humorous aspects of his films are a good way to chronicle gay life, and can even serve as what he termed a “sex-positive” big screen viewing pleasure.
“What I’m really trying to do is to allow us to laugh at ourselves. Every type of human being, in their own special way, is funny or does funny things. And I just thought if we got to the point where we could laugh at ourselves, that laughter could liberate us,” he encapsulated.
This interview was first published in September 2008.