Gay and Gayer

Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey bring the true story of con man Steven Russell and his former cell mate and lover to the big screen in I Love You Phillip Morris.

BY Michael Giltz

August 26 2008 11:00 PM ET

Ewan McGregor
looks pissed. He’s playing the title character, a
prisoner, in the new movie I Love You Phillip
Morris
, and his character has just discovered that
a fellow inmate (someone he can’t stand) has
been beaten up.

He’s upset
because everyone is blaming his boyfriend, Steven Russell
(Jim Carrey), for the brawl. But when Morris learns
that the gossip is true, that Russell really did order
the pummeling, he jumps into his boyfriend’s
cot and coos, “That’s the most romantic thing
anyone’s ever done for me.” The actors
kiss on the lips and roll around until Carrey (now out
of character) says to McGregor, “You’re
getting a little too excited.”

A beat-down as a
romantic gesture? The film’s directors -- Glenn
Ficarra and John Requa -- love it. Sitting in the
steamy warehouse set outside New Orleans, Requa leans
back with pleasure after McGregor and Carrey finish
the scene, and Ficarra shouts, “That was
great!”

Still, the
make-out session needs to be shot several more times.
Sometimes the kiss is more tender, other times more
passionate. The one thing that every take makes clear
is that I Love You Phillip Morris, which the
producers hope to see released this fall, isn’t
shying away from showing two men in love.

Romance behind
bars may not be remarkable, but the true story the film is
based on surely is: Russell was a con artist who posed as a
chief financial officer, a Virginia millionaire, and
other powerful figures in order to steal hundreds of
thousands of dollars. Once a police officer, he was
married with children before coming out of the closet.
Furtive affairs finally led to a relationship with his
first boyfriend (played by Rodrigo Santoro of
Che), who later died of AIDS.

After a
conviction for insurance fraud, Russell was placed in
Houston’s Harris County Jail, where he fell
quickly and completely in love with the redheaded and
boyish Morris, who was incarcerated for violating probation
imposed for failing to return a rental car. Russell was so
in love that after Morris was released, he repeatedly
broke out of prison (one time literally walking out
the front door, dressed as a doctor) to be with his
man.

“What
makes [this movie] different from Catch Me If You
Can
or any other con-man movie is that it’s a
love story,” Requa says. “Some of the
more shocking elements of the movie -- the idea of
these men trying to snatch love and bliss in the middle of
the most awful environment imaginable -- are actually
very funny.”

Tags: film

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