20-Something

Director Chris Mason Johnson highlights the new reality of gay-straight relations in his coming-of-age drama The New Twenty.

BY Dan Avery

March 23 2009 12:00 AM ET

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There's this moment of homoerotic tension when Louie and Andrew first meet in the sauna at their gym, and Louie comments on how gay men hook up in steam rooms. What were you trying to say with that scene?I wasn't suggesting that Louie is closeted -- that would be too predictable. But there is an air of homoeroticism around straight male relationships. And the cruising scene was a way to show how the older generation of straight men, which Louie represents, are disgusted by it. By any sign of homosexuality, really. Someone younger, like Andrew, is more comfortable in both worlds. It's not his thing, but he's not repulsed. Also, when Tony meets Robert at the gym, he assumes they're going to hook up. But Robert says, "I'm not here to cruise." I wanted to show that gay men don't necessarily fit those stereotypes.

What is proper steam-room etiquette, anyway?I don't pretend to be an expert [ laughs ]. It happens -- in some places it's out in the open. Could be 10 guys groping, or maybe just two. Other times it's more discreet. But a lot of people feel like, I just want to go to the gym to work out!

The term "post-gay" gets tossed around a lot. Does this group of friends represent a post-gay reality?I think its like saying America is post-race because we have an African-American president. It's obviously not a literal statement. We're not beyond homophobia, but there has been a major shift. It wouldn't have been possible to have a mix of gay-straights even the 1980s. But even in this group, Tony gets the brunt of homophobia and Ben is the clown.

Let's talk about Ryan Locke, who plays Andrew. He's so hot it's almost distracting.He's definitely the subject of the viewer's gaze. I wanted to create this object of desire for everyone in the group -- male, female, gay, straight. He's the hot alpha male, and usually in movies that guy is the good guy. But Andrew could go either way -- he hurts his friends; he makes some terrible choices. It some ways, it's the passive characters like Ben that are more likable.

Speaking of Ben, is he out or what? He spends his nights cruising chat rooms but never talks about being gay.He's in the glass closet, which is a very complicated reality. His friends know the deal, but it's not OK to talk about yet. He knows he can't be actively gay -- talking about men or whatever -- and still be accepted in that male clan.

Tags: film

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