Why ‘The Boys in the Band’ still resonates after 50 years

LOS ANGELES – Five years ago, Charlie Carver, who appears in the upcoming Netflix film “The Boys in the Band”, was at an Emmy party when a gay man worked with him three different times to act. .

Carver says, “I was told that I needed to get this under control ‘around people in business.”

Later, while Carver was waiting in the wallet, he again went to his coworker and asked him for clarification. Instead, the man slaps Carver. “It was not fickle, but deliberate, pointed and meant educative. A slap,” says the actor. “I told him that if he ever touched me again I would take his name.”

Distraught as night, Carver, now 32, says, “That was the moment when I said to myself, ‘I can’t do that. I can’t police myself that way.”

A few months later, in January 2016, he appeared publicly in a series of Instagram posts.

It is not lost on Carver that revealing his sexuality was not an option for gay actors who appeared in the Broadway production of “The Boys in the Band” in 1968, playing about Mart Crowley’s group of gay men Who gather to celebrate her friend Harold’s birthday. Even though “Boys” was a hit, attracting audiences that included Jackie Onassis, Marlene Dittrich and Grucho Marx, both straight and gay actors were warned that the careers appearing on the show would lead to suicide.

Coming in public? Unimaginable.

By the time of the Tony-winning revival of 2018’s “The Boys in the Band”, in which Carver made his Broadway debut, all of the cast were openly gay. The starry ensemble included Jim Parsons, Matt Bomar, Zachary Quinto, Andrew Rannells, Brian Hutchison, Michael Benjamin Washington, Robin de Jesus and Took Watkins.

Now the cast have reunited for a film adaptation for Netflix, produced by Ryan Murphy. The director of the play, Joe Mantello, returned and Crowley and Ned Martell co-wrote the screenplay.

Like the play, the film takes place one night in an apartment. “I kept saying, ‘I don’t apologize for this being a play,” Mantello tells Variety. “The language of the plays is about the language, and I think the film is about the pictures, and I think the strength of this piece is the language. The amount of dialogue in this film is probably two or three times what you have in contemporary film Is in. I think. “All About Eve ‘found many quotable lines – such amazing lines that people are quoting even after more than 50 years.”

“The Boys in the Band” has always been polarizing during its original stage run, and then when William Friedkin directed a film adaptation in the 1970s. Fans saw it as a daring work of art, which is unexpectedly gay, warts and all. Critics dismiss this as applying a narrow lens that portrays gay men as devious queens who lack in misery and self-loathing.

“There is a kind of laziness when one describes the play with a broad brush in the sense that it is entirely about self-loathing,” Mantello says. “I don’t think that’s absolutely true. It’s a specific story about a specific time. I don’t think there’s anything useful about historical souvenirs and drama. [the problems] Was not present or it was not difficult. I would say that the drama is uncomfortable about and problematic about some characters because they were against it. It is not a failure of who they are or who gay men are. “

Love them or hate them, Crowley’s “Boys” resonated for half a century. “We know those people,” says Quinto, who plays Harold. “The circumstances around them have changed, to some extent, externally – socially and politically for the most part – but the internal feelings they’re wrestling with are different? I don’t know.”

While the Broadway production introduced “Boys” to a new generation, Netflix would bring it to audiences around the world.

“The film airing on Netflix raises the presumption that LGBTQ statements should be limited or niche – or worse, banned.” “There is an undeniable hunger for these stories that surpass the simplest imagination of the brave men who acted in the original film.”

Jim Parsons as Michael in “The Boys in the Band”.Scott Everett White / Netflix

Five to five weeks before the presidential election, the film is coming to serial 30. “A lot can change for the worse right now,” says De Jesus. “Maybe the film coming this month is actually right, because it can provide the motivation to be radical and fight f-ig.” De Jesus warns that the drama of oppression in “The Boys in the Band” may not be rooted in the distant past. “My message to young people is this film to guide you, to see you, to remind you who you are, who you came from, what the ancestors did and why we all need to do our work, ever Not to go back, ”he says.

“The Boys in the Band” is also being released among coronoviruses. The play is a snapshot of the time just before a different lethal pandemic. By 1984, five actors in the original production had died of AIDS, as did director Robert Moore and producer Richard Barr.

Says Mantello, “I think they feel the last laugh in the sense that it has survived for over 50 years and is not only a sacred text in the history of gay theater.” . “I think they are proud of what we have done.”

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