Chris New: Weekend Update  

Out actor Chris New makes his big-screen debut 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.

BY Brandon Voss

October 14 2011 5:00 AM ET

Chris New in Weekend X390 | ADVOCATE.COM There has been criticism that the drug use and promiscuity shown in the film perpetuates the stereotype that gay men are all druggy whores. How do you respond to that?
If you watched Beauty and the Beast, you wouldn’t say that all beasts lived in castles and had magic mirrors, would you? So that argument is a bit silly. Whenever you have a character that portrays any kind of action, you’re never making a judgment that all people are like that. But the most important thing the drugs and sex aspect of the film is that the film doesn’t rely on those things to be interesting, and it’s not glamorizing it. What’s more important is what’s going on between these two guys.

Both of your performances feel incredibly natural. Did you adhere strictly to Andrew’s script or was there room for improvisation?
Andrew’s script was very strong from day one, but he wasn’t precious about it. We had a week of rehearsals where we went through every scene, every line, and talked through the entire script. We shared our ideas, we maybe looked at things that could be trimmed, rewritten, or shaped in a different way. But when we came to shoot, Andrew said to chuck the script away. We still ended up staying very close to the script, and we certainly kept the same structure of the scenes, but we always felt like we had the freedom to change a word or a phrase. If I wanted to put in a different gag to make Tom laugh for real, I could do that. Every time we did a take, Andrew encouraged us to do the scene completely different. Just having the freedom to do whatever we wanted was incredible, and it led us to that naturalistic style.

Were there any extra challenges involved in shooting those very intimate sex scenes with Tom, a straight actor?
Well, we were all understandably embarrassed about doing it. Andrew made a deal with us that we would film those scenes very quickly and then we’d all ignore that it ever happened and never talk about it again. Andrew actually spent the entire shoot with a towel over his head, trying not to look at us. Those scenes are what felt most like work.

There’s always a certain amount of controversy involved when a straight actor is cast in a gay role, primarily because of an argument that it’s stealing parts from gay actors. What’s your take on that?
It’s weird. I asked Tom if people have said things to him like, “Oh, you’re very brave to take this role,” and he said that yes, he has gotten that impression. But as the film gets a bigger audience, I hope that people realize that those things really don’t matter. It’s about who’s the best actor for the job. During the auditions, I read with various actors; some of them were obviously gay, some of them weren’t, and some of them we weren’t sure. We never asked, of course. Andrew just chose the actor that he thought could do the role the best. It’s a difficult subject. Maybe only straight actors should play gay roles because then you know they’re acting? I don’t know. Look, it’s obvious that people behave very differently toward Tom, being a straight actor playing a gay role, than they do toward me, being a gay actor playing a gay role. But I’m not very interested in dwelling upon it. It bores me a bit.

Tags: film

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