The Gayest Nongay Movie Ever Made

By Corey Scholibo

Originally published on Advocate.com January 21 2009 1:00 AM ET

I Love You Phillip Morris premiered Sunday
night to a packed house and a gaggle of onlookers as its
stars Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor made their way into
the theater.

In the film,
Carrey plays con man Steven Russell who, after being married
to Debbie (Leslie Mann), suddenly reveals he's gay. He moves
to Miami, takes Jimmy (Rodrigo Santoro) as a lover,
and starts to con people in order to keep up with his
lavish lifestyle. When he is caught and sent to
prison, he meets Phillip Morris (McGregor). The two fall
instantly in love and, when Russell is released, he
poses as a lawyer to secure Morris’s release.
They set up house and Russell successfully poses as the
CFO of a major Texas banking company while simultaneously
stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars. When he is
caught and sent to prison, he escapes to be with
Morris -- multiple times -- so many
times he becomes an embarrassment to the Texas
corrections system.

Oh, and the
entire story is true. The film is a prison movie, a caper, a
romantic comedy, and somehow the gayest non-gay film ever
made. Writers and directors Glenn Ficarra and John
Requa sat down with Advocate.com at the Queer
Lounge following a panel to explain just what that
means.

Advocate.com:You said in your press conference today that you want
to skip past the issue of being gay. Which I think this
movie really does. It’s not that gayness is
incidental, because it is important to the plot, but…
Glenn Ficarra: But it's not about the gay
experience. I wanted to say when that guy on our panel was
talking about Obama and "post-racial" America, we get
written as being "post-homophobic" America, [but] we
were blindsided by the whole Prop. 8 thing in
California. We thought we were smooth sailing. I wonder
if it will have some meaning there.John: Our sincere hope is that people see the
movie and realize that they just need to get over it.
[Laughs] It is a tremendous amount of time and
effort wasted on what people do with their junk. They are
just two people in love. There is never any mention of
them being gay. It just comes natural to them as it
did with the real guys. I mean, I don't know, but when
two gay guys meet, they don't sit there and pontificate for
hours about the climate of homosexual culture in
America. They just think, Wow, this guy is cute and I
like the way he thinks,
and boom. Just as it
is in any relationship. We are just trying to get past
that in our film, because we are past that and
obviously we think the world should think the way we do.

A lot of times, when movies like this are made, the
scenes like you have of anal and oral sex -- shown both
as comedic and romantic, just as in life
-- are cut, or never written. I am curious,
Was that ever something you were thinking about?
John: It wasn’t, because we said, "If
that can't be part of this film then we don't want to do
it." We were going to take this on, we are going to
treat it as a nonissue and be casual about it, and
that was our precondition and we are not going to be
second-guessing ourselves without any holding back.

I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS JIM CARREY X390 (PUBLICITY) | ADVOCATE.COM
 

But you obviously included those scenes knowing
they were going to push your audience.
Glenn: We thought by coming in hard [laughs]
with the first scene of Jim having anal sex, that
people would go, "OK, anything can happen here."
Everything else from then on out is them getting together.
It isn't some treatise on casual sex or anything.John: And a lot of it is just our style. Our
style is to treat sexuality in a very casual way. We have
always done that. We felt there was no reason to
change our style just because it happened to be two
men. If this were a movie between a man and woman,
there would have been all those raw jokes. That is just our
oeuvre, baby. Glenn: But there was concern by
some people that it was touchy material. This isn't
reserved to homosexuality. There is a whole thing in
Hollywood that you can't write a negative female
character, under the thumb of a man or something. There is
always some sort of issue. Instead they are just a person.John: There are a lot of bullshit rules in
Hollywood and we like to ignore them.

And you didn't consult anyone from the gay
community on the script?
John: Well, sure, we have lots of gay friends.

Did you ever worry how it would be perceived by them?Glenn: We never went for a homophobic joke. It
is all based on that it is funny because it is funny, not
because it is homophobic. The closest you get is the
scene in Miami where Jim is so over the top because he
is so new at being gay. Ewan calls it his "gay bender."John: That is also part of the narrative
conceit of being conned. You think that there is this
superficial world that he has entered into when he is
first out and in Miami. And later on you realize he
has been lying to the audience. And in fact it was far
from superficial. He had a real life, a real love with
Jimmy, played by Rodrigo Santoro, and a real loss when
he dies. That is a mechanical thing. That has no gay
context; we wanted the audience to be conned. Just
like he did to the people in his life.

Your film just premiered and you got your first
audiences. Were you expecting that inevitable question
that came right out of the gate at the premiere
Q&A: "What is it like to kiss a guy?"
Glenn: It is really annoying, actually. It is a
stupid question. It's a mouth. It feels the same.John: I think actually Ewan answered the
question very straightforward.

Yes, he responded right away saying that it wasn't
weird or awkward kissing or cuddling with Jim or any
guy. And it was so matter of fact, as if the
question is a non-question.
John: And what Jim has been saying from the
very beginning is that who wouldn't want to kiss Ewan
McGregor. I mean, he may be straight, but Ewan
McGregor is a beautiful man. It is such a nonissue.
These are brilliant, seasoned actors. There was never a beat
or a moment when they were freaked out by it.

But do you think that you are tapping into
something that is going on in culture right now?
John: Well, that was our intent. We know those
people are out there who are going to take issue with this.
And that was our intent in going so aggressively whole
hog since the first reveal [when Jim Carrey is having
sex with a man]. It is a funny gag, but it's also,
"Look, get over it. Here it is. This is what this movie
is. We are not going to be shy. If you have these issues, we
don't care about you. This is your chance to get out
of the theater." We hoped to inoculate the audience.
We just want people to get the fuck over it.
[Laughs] Can you print profanity?

I can if you say it.Glenn: We are in this world post–Will &
Grace
, but there is never any romance on that
show. Which struck me as odd that they didn't go there
because it was so bawdy and bold and it was kind of insulting.John: I mean, you don't see a lot of
interracial couples in Hollywood movies till recently
either. There is all sorts of stuff. And this is
supposedly progressive, forward-thinking, modern Hollywood.Glenn: And when you see it is forced or
tokenism, or it's about that, Oooh she brought home
a black guy.
And I think we are on the precipice of
getting over that.

Are you afraid that you are too far ahead of your time?Glenn: Never afraid.John: Make your audience. Don't pander to your audience.Glenn: If you’re going to fail, fail boldly.
And it is honestly where we are and there is a long tail
that needs to catch up.