Is “Humpday” a gay movie or the ultimate bromance flick? My chat with director Lynn Shelton
The screenings for Humpday at last month’s LA Film Festival were completely sold out and I was among those who got to see this unique comedy about two straight guys who dare each other to make a gay porn movie – together!
It was billed as the ultimate bromance flick, a buddy movie gone wild. The premise seemed silly to me but the poster was too enticing to ignore. What I saw was a movie that was so fresh and so funny thanks largely to the chemistry between its two leading me Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard.
Here’s the plot: It’s been a decade since Ben (Duplass) and Andrew (Leonard) were the bad boys of their college campus. Ben has settled down and found a job, wife, and home. Andrew took the alternate route as a vagabond artist, skipping the globe from Chiapas to Cambodia. When Andrew shows up unannounced on Ben’s doorstep, they easily fall back into their old dynamic of macho one-upmanship.
Late into the night at a wild party, the two find themselves locked in a mutual dare: to enter an amateur porn contest together. But what kind of boundary-breaking, envelope pushing porn can two straight dudes make? After the booze and “big talk” run out, only one idea remains—they will have sex together…on camera. It’s not gay; it’s beyond gay. It’s not porn; it’s art. But how exactly will it work? And more importantly, who will tell Anna (Alycia Delmore), Ben’s wife?
I sat down with the film’s writer-director Lynn Shelton last week to talk about the movie which is being released gradually to build word-of-mouth. It opened in New York and Seattle last weekend and today opens in Pasadena, Berkley and San Francisco. On July 24, it opens in two theaters in LA proper and in 10 other cities. (Go to the film’s website for specific dates and times.)
The first thing I asked Shelton about the the climactic scene between the two men in the hotel room where they have gone to make the movie. It took 10 hours to shoot and the dialogue was mostly improvisation from the two actors. Even Shelton didn’t know what was going to happen in terms of will they or won’t they have sex.
“We decided we didn’t want to kn0w so it would give it this special energy and vitality knowing, ‘God, anything can happen.’ We left our preconceived notions of what might happen in that room at the door and we decided to just go with total authenticity and honesty. I said, ‘You guys are just going to live out this scene as Ben and Andrew.’”
But doesn’t this make them gay? Do straight guys really agree to make a gay porno with their BFF?
“The desire was never sexual, it was never a lust-filled thing – it was the opposite,” Shelton said. “It was actually a challenge to see if they could do it. They never said this but it was almost like, ‘We have to do this to prove we’re not homophobic.’ It was a very interesting dynamic.”
I asked Shelton (pictured left at this year’s Sundance Film Festival) what the reaction has been from gay moviegoers.
“Well I’ll tell you, the ones I’ve been talking to are the ones who come up at the end of a screening and they really, really like the film – they really respond to it,” Shelton said. “I was totally delighted by it but I was also trying to figure out why that was and I’ve just decided that I think that’s my fan base (laughs). That is a large chunk of the Humpday fanbase and I hope that’s what happens and I’m thrilled by it because I bent over backwards to make sure this was not a homophobic film and, in fact, quite the opposite. Even though it’s not a gay film because it’s sort of an examination of straightness it’s still gay friendly and it is examining the sexual identity and how rigid or fluid are those boundaries for different people.”
Does she think the straight dudes are going to go see this together or maybe take their girlfriends? Shelton hopes so but knows it may be a tall order.
“It’s really about and for straight guys but I think a lot of straight guys will be scared to go see it because of their own insecurity. There’s a lot of anxiety.”
COMING SUNDAY: My interview with star Mark Duplass!