Chris New: Weekend Update
BY Brandon Voss
October 14 2011 6:00 AM ET
Known for his stage and television work in his native England, Chris New makes his big-screen debut as Glen, a confident and cheeky artist, in Weekend, out British filmmaker Andrew Haigh’s festival favorite about two gay men who meet at a London nightclub and spend the next 48 hours having sex, sharing their stories, and baring their souls. New, a 30-year-old gay actor, stars opposite straight actor Tom Cullen in the naturalistic romance, which opened September 23 in the U.S. and, propelled by positive reviews and strong box office, continues its national rollout through October. Recently named one of five breakthrough performers of the fall film season by The New York Times, New phoned The Advocate from across the pond to discuss his decision to be out professionally and the not-so-dirty secrets behind the film’s realistic sex scenes.
The Advocate: Have you been keeping up with how well Weekend is being received in the U.S.?
Chris New: Yeah, Andrew, Tom, and I have all been following the progress over there, and we’re just absolutely amazed. It’s really weird, because the film is obviously so intimate, and it was put together very quickly on a very small budget with a very small crew. When we finished, we thought, Well, we had a good stab at it. Hopefully, it might get seen by some people, maybe screen at some festivals, and maybe go straight to DVD. So to see the film getting such strong personal reactions from people is quite astounding and really thrilling.
You’re not one of those actors who won’t read reviews?
I don’t like to read reviews about me, but I quite like to read reviews about the project I’m doing, just to see if anybody’s going to buy a ticket.
One of my favorite reviews is in Entertainment Weekly, which called you “magnetically slippery.”
[Laughs] I’m not really sure how that can work, but I like it.
Your character Glen, an artist, has a great line in the film about his latest exhibit: “The problem is that no one’s gonna come see it because it’s about gay sex. The gays’ll only come because they want a glimpse of cock, and they’ll be disappointed. The straights won’t come because it’s got nothing to do with their world.” Is that more or less what you anticipated about Weekend’s audience?
Yeah, when we were talking about the film, Andrew and I were very keen on discussing that notion. I think — I can’t really remember, because we did so many versions of each scene — but I think we were going to have a reference to gay films as well. We were going say something like, “Gay films only ever get seen in gay festivals,” but we thought it was too pointed a reference. We did worry that the film would be labeled a “gay film” and put into a ghetto, but the great thing is that it has broken out, not only with audiences but also with critics. You often worry that critics might look at the film more cynically than a normal audience, but their reaction has been incredible, and it’s encouraging the film to do better and break out of any pigeonhole that it might be placed in.
For the gays who “want a glimpse of cock,” there is some brief male nudity in the film. Did you have any hesitations about that?
I was a bit nervous. Some actors don’t have a problem with it because they’ve got talents downstairs that they don’t mind showing off. Ian McKellan, for example, has the biggest thing you’ve ever seen, so no wonder he gets it out. But yeah, there’s always a worry with nudity, and partly because it’s harder to hide behind the character when you’re naked. But with Andrew’s script, we all felt that the sex was never gratuitous or just there for titillation. It was purely there to drive the plot and reveal the characters.