In 1998, the 23-year-old Ryan Phillippe starred in the film 54, set in New York’s infamous nightclub Studio 54 — the 1970s epicenter of sex, drugs, celebrities, and disco. He plays Shane, a simple but hot kid who “works” his way up from shirtless busboy to drug-dealing hustler under the guidance of lecherous gay club owner Steve Rubell (Mike Myers).
If you saw the film and found it disappointingly bland, you’re not alone. It was.
Spooked by negative reactions to test screenings, Disney-owned Miramax cut 36 minutes of the film’s bisexual content and demanded that director Mark Christopher and company shoot an additional 25 minutes, including a dull straight love story between Shane and an actress (Neve Campbell) and a happy ending.
“It was a movie ahead of its time,” director Christopher told Variety. “The flawed characters, Ryan’s character, this sort of opportunistic bisexual … that was a little hard for a wide audience, and this was an 1,800-print release. It’s the simple story of a bartender (Breckin Meyer), a coat-check girl (Salma Hayek), and a busboy, and their love triangle, and how they become family in a weird way. Now it’s a cliché, but I hadn’t seen that in 1998.”
Flash forward 17 years. Miramax has changed hands, the times have caught up with the film, and Christopher has recut 54 into the film he always intended to make. “So from the 25 minutes of reshoots, we have five seconds left, and we’ve put back 36 minutes of the original material,” he said.
54: The Director’s Cut had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival this past February, and it will screen at the San Francisco International Film Festival Friday. Christopher and actors Phillippe and Meyer are confirmed to attend.
Watch Shane learn the Studio 54 ropes here:
Watch the 1998 trailer here:
Fun fact: According to The Leading Men Collection website, which sells celebrity-worn costumes, the satin shorts Phillippe wore in 54 were sold for $749.00.
For tickets to the San Francisco screening go here.