The Boys in the Band (2020 film)
Redoing the classics is always risky. But 2018’s Ryan Murphy-backed Broadway production of The Boys in the Band — reviving Mart Crowley’s groundbreaking 1968 drama about a group of gay men who gather for a birthday party gone wrong — emerged as a Tony-winning success. Such a hit, in fact, that Murphy reunited all nine of its actors (Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer, Brian Hutchison, Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesús, Zachary Quinto, Tuc Watkins, and Michael Benjamin Washington) for a Netflix film, which hits the streamer on Sept. 30.
With the Boys zooming in from all corners, battling power outages and spotty signals, EW managed to gather all nine actors plus Mantello over Zoom for one long, fabulous Around the Table discussion. We touched on the experience of taking on the Boys story again for the screen, its enduring resonance (and controversy), working with Crowley before his death, at 84, in March, and much more. Below are select transcripts of the conversation (edited for clarity). And you can watch our full edited roundtable at the top of this post.
Scott Everett White/Netflix
On Deciding to Make the Movie
JOE MANTELLO (DIRECTOR): When Ryan first brought up the idea of doing the revival, he’d always imagined that [it] would be a new version of the [1970 film].
JIM PARSONS (MICHAEL): It had been such a wonderful experience that I worried it might lack the same impact [in] the movie version. But it turned into exactly the opposite. The Broadway run informed the process of making this movie in a way that, as Matt Bomer said, “I don’t want to ever do a movie now [if] I haven’t done a full Broadway run of the material beforehand.”
MATT BOMER (DONALD): We knew our characters. On any given take, we knew how to improvise and find new moments in a medium that’s inherently a lot more intimate.
On Reaching a Wider Audience
BOMER: It’s about a very specific group of men at a very specific time. There’s a fever pitch… [and] ugliness that comes with that. I’m excited for a wide swath of demographics to come to the film and experience it as the piece that it is.
PARSONS: Anybody who has resistance to this, they just need to give it more time and live with it longer, like I did in order to find what this was, where it came from. It’s a genius journey through humanity.
Scott Everett White/NETFLIX ©2020
BRIAN HUTCHISON (ALAN): There’s a shorthand and a trust that we all had from doing the play.
ANDREW RANNELLS (LARRY): I don’t think any of us will ever have that experience again, where everyone was fully off-book for the entire film. [All laugh] There were no pages on the set! We just kind of got to launch back into what we did.
ZACHARY QUINTO (HAROLD): The film is so much [more] rooted in the period. The wardrobe process [showed me] just how much fun we were going to have. When [I saw] this bolt of green velvet for Harold’s suit, I was like, “Oh, okay, here we are.” There’s something so exciting about that, like playing with a new version of toys that we had known so well.
TUC WATKINS (HANK): When we started rehearsing, these guys brought in this nuance and this subtlety that theater doesn’t lend itself to, and the camera does. Some of the lines were taken away that were in the Broadway show, replaced with glances or nuances.
CHARLIE CARVER (COWBOY): That’s part of what was so fun about being on set, too. The first couple of days, being able to — when the coverage wasn’t on you and it was a close-up on somebody else — just appreciate each other’s work again, in a way that we weren’t able to see on stage.
On Getting a Second Take
ROBIN DE JESÚS (EMORY): It is totally bizarre! There’s one thing on set that Jim said to me.
PARSONS: Oh God.
DE JESÚS: I was a little frustrated [when] I thought of something fun to do for one of the takes but it was too late. You said to me, “Robin, it’s okay to learn in the middle of the process and have it be filmed.” But I think sometimes there’s that thing as an actor where you’re just like, “Oh God, it’s there forever.”
Scott Everett White/NETFLIX
On the Story’s Claustrophobia
QUINTO: We filmed chronologically. After all of the balcony scenes, where everybody runs in and slams the doors shut, we still had two and a half weeks of the shoot. The doors were all closed.
HUTCHISON: Everyone hates my character. So I definitely felt it.
WATKINS: It felt like we were all on a submarine.
DE JESÚS: I remember after a couple days being like, “Get me out!”
MICHAEL BENJAMIN WASHINGTON (BERNARD): The air we were sharing together, the oxygen we were breathing, it [got] very, very tense. But I trusted these men so much.
On the Story’s Continued Resonance
WATKINS: As the senior cast member, who’s almost twice as old as our youngest cast member, Charlie… it’s really important to see [that] it’s only 50 years, but a lot has changed. Being gay in 1968 was hell. We need to know and see our history.
RANNELLS: [Charlie’s] not that young!
PARSONS: No, he’s not. [Laughs]
CARVER: What’s so beautiful to me about this play is it speaks to the power of storytelling. The first half of this play is so fun and so full of joy that you can’t help but fall in love with these characters. The second half, you get in touch with their pain. It helps us empathize. So yeah, it’s powerful stuff.
On Mart Crowley
RANNELLS: Seeing him on stage, collecting his well-earned Tony award [and] getting that recognition, albeit 50 years later, was very, very powerful.
QUINTO: There was something so full-circle about this [film] experience. For him to see us making the movie, bringing him to the end of his life and us being adjacent to that.
MANTELLO: He really approached [his cameo] like he was the 10th cast member. He talked about his character being a professor at NYU! He took it so seriously. I love that he’s forever a part of this film.
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The Boys in the Band (2020 film)
Broadway comes to TV with ‘American Utopia’ and ‘What the Constitution Means to Me’
Both shows are worth the time, although seeing them at home, frankly, reinforces what’s lost in translation given the tingle that live theater, at its best, can send up your spine — a sensation that doesn’t quite emerge on either front. Together, they underscore what “Hamilton” so impressively accomplished by conjuring that elusive magic. Notably,…
Both shows are worth the time, although seeing them at home, frankly, reinforces what’s lost in translation given the tingle that live theater, at its best, can send up your spine — a sensation that doesn’t quite emerge on either front. Together, they underscore what “Hamilton” so impressively accomplished by conjuring that elusive magic. Notably, HBO Max’s “The West Wing” special also captures some of that by bringing a TV show to the stage for the purposes of watching at home. (Like CNN, HBO is a unit of WarnerMedia.)Byrne, the Talking Heads front man, has always possessed a theatrical and cinematic flair, including his 1986 directorial effort “True Stories.” Those qualities inform “American Utopia,” a collection of songs — imaginatively choreographed and lit — that conveys the joyous and playful aspects of his music.On the plus side, that sense of fun is entertaining enough. The main drawback is that while Byrne addresses pressing issues during his chatting with the audience — including the importance of voting, and introducing his performance of Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout,” name-checking Black people killed by police — there’s scant thematic adhesive to the presentation, unlike some other productions wedding rock to Broadway (Bruce Springsteen’s “Springsteen on Broadway,” filmed for Netflix, comes to mind).Lee does an admirable job of shooting the performance from every conceivable angle, although while the overhead shots are quite cool, one could probably do without closeups on Byrne’s feet, which along with the rest of the performers, are bare.Byrne’s playlist includes the hit “Burning Down the House,” and a boisterous rendition of “Road to Nowhere,” which includes a march through the appreciative audience.”American Utopia” doesn’t set the screen ablaze, but Byrne and his collaborators certainly know how to put on a show, even when it feels like they’re going nowhere.”What the Constitution Means to Me,” by contrast, is an audacious idea, one that starts slowly — at least in this format — before sinking in its hooks about halfway through.Playwright-star Schreck (a Tony nominee on both scores) earned college tuition money by competing in Constitutional debates, and revives her 15-year-old self to explore — humorously at first, pointedly later — its troubling and inequitable aspects, including mistreatment of women.Schreck’s reminiscing about “Dirty Dancing” and visiting legion halls to wax eloquently about the Constitution to mostly older men come into sharper focus when she exits the time capsule, and pivots to speaking in her 40-something voice.At that moment her memories and observations become sharper, from the patriarchal values of the court to violence against women to her own experience with abortion.”When abortion became illegal, it didn’t become rare,” she says, referencing the days before Roe v. Wade. “It only became deadly.”Schreck closes by engaging in a debate with a teen orator, Rosdely Ciprian, about whether the Constitution is indeed the living, breathing document that we’ve been taught to admire in school — adaptable to the modern age — or a hopelessly dated construct that needs to be discarded, starting over from scratch. It’s an interesting device, while lacking the impact of the material that precedes it.Directed by Marielle Heller (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”), “What the Constitution Means to Me” serves as a reminder that those pining for the past tend to ignore historic inequalities. There’s even quotation from the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — who caused a stir when she saw the show last year — which makes the special feel extra timely and poignant.Minor drawbacks aside, both shows have plenty to recommend them. And if live theater means anything to you, they provide at least a taste of what you’re missing.”What the Constitution Means to Me” premieres Oct. 16 on Amazon.”American Utopia” premieres Oct. 17 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO, which like CNN, is a unit of WarnerMedia.
Taraji P. Henson confirms split from fiancé Kelvin Hayden
The “What Men Want” actress confirmed during an appearance Monday on “The Breakfast Club” that she and the former NFL player have ended their engagement.”I just turned 50 and I mean, I hadn’t said it yet, but it didn’t work out,” she told the hosts of the popular New York City radio show. “I tried.…
The “What Men Want” actress confirmed during an appearance Monday on “The Breakfast Club” that she and the former NFL player have ended their engagement.”I just turned 50 and I mean, I hadn’t said it yet, but it didn’t work out,” she told the hosts of the popular New York City radio show. “I tried. I was, like ‘Therapy, let’s do the therapy thing,’ but if you’re both not on the same page with that then you feel like, you’re taking it on yourself. And that’s not a fair position for anybody to play in a relationship.”The couple got engaged in 2018 and were scheduled to be married in June this year.In March Henson told “Extra” they were postponing the wedding due to the coronavirus pandemic.”It’s probably going to be more like July,” she said at the time. “We have to see what this will be like at the other end.”The “Empire” star was part of a panel discussion on “The Breakfast Club” about trauma and relationships.She said she loves Black men and Black love and is a fan of mental health support for her community. “It hurts when relationships don’t last,” she said. “I love to see Black love and I want to see more of it. I want to see our relationships last and make it.”
‘Supermaket Sweep’ hopes to get you swept into the fun
The phrase “global pandemic” had just been thrown around in the news the day before and even though I’d been prepping supplies and canned goods since the month prior, I decided that morning that our household could use a fresh round of the basics so we could hunker down for a couple of weeks. Everyone…
The phrase “global pandemic” had just been thrown around in the news the day before and even though I’d been prepping supplies and canned goods since the month prior, I decided that morning that our household could use a fresh round of the basics so we could hunker down for a couple of weeks. Everyone in West Los Angeles apparently had the same idea. I’ll remember that morning for the rest of my life because walking into a crowded grocery store with mostly bare shelves was something I had been privileged enough to not have experienced before. Though, there had been a time when I wanted nothing more than to run through a grocery store, clearing shelves as I went along. I loved “Supermarket Sweep” as a child and was convinced I could achieve financial independence if only given the chance to run the big sweep one day. (My plan was always to start by grabbing an inflatable bonus, running it back and then heading straight for the expensive meats.) This store looked like it had fallen victim to lots of sweepers but not in a fun way. Carts were piled high but faces were masked and not smiling. The eyes that poked above face coverings were filled with worry. By the time my turkey, ribs and I got to the checkout counter, and I heard that familiar beep, I didn’t think about “Supermarket Sweep.” I thought, “Get me the hell out of here.” ABC will premiere its reboot of “Supermarket Sweep” on Sunday, hoping to feed viewers’ appetite for escapist programming with their new take on the game show once hosted by David Ruprecht. In the process, it will confront the question of whether it’s escapist at all to be reminded of our complicated relationship with grocery shopping and food this year, whether you couldn’t find toilet paper or are one of the millions struggling with food insecurity in wake of the economic downfall. “We want it to be received with fun and laughter and joy and a little escape from the mask of it all,” executive producer Alycia Rossier told reporters on a recent conference call. “The grocery workers in the States have kept us alive for the last six months. They went to the store every day. And we see our store as a place of celebration.” The show honors a grocery store worker in every episode and awards them $2,000, Rossiter said. The groceries featured in the show’s store were also all donated to the Los Angeles Food Bank or, in the case of perishables, donated to animal charities that could use them as feed.”We were thinking about it every step of the way,” she said. That includes host and executive producer Leslie Jones, who noted that while people aren’t wearing masks inside their fictional grocery store, they are essential items. (Contestants and those on set were tested for coronavirus prior to filming, which occurred in late July, and safety protocols were instituted on set.) “I’m going to say right here, yeah, you’re supposed to have on your damn mask,” she said. If you appreciate Jones and her brand of humor for being as inherently joyful as intended, you’ll enjoy her in the role of host. Other than the prices of groceries, which will inspire sticker shock and the maximum amount of prize money ($100,000), no notable changes have been made to the game itself. And that’s great news because the game was perfect as it was. Jones sees the hour-long show as a chance for people “to bond together and know that there’s still some good stuff going on and that there’s hope.” Ultimately, viewers will decide if they’re ready to buy that.