Photo credit: Frank Micelotta/Getty Images
Andrew Fleming is no stranger to controversy. An openly gay writer and director who splashed onto the scene with the uncommonly frank and unapologetically gay college dramedy Threesome in 1994, Fleming has defied convention (spunky tween comedy Nancy Drew and trippy gorefest Bad Dreams came from the same guy?), poked good-natured fun at our sacred cows (with the masterful political comedy Dick), and launched a subgenre of chick horror (The Craft), while keeping a decidedly queer viewpoint the whole way.
This week Hamlet 2, Fleming’s hilarious and wonderfully vulgar satire of theatre, inspirational teachers and the artistic void that is Tucson, Arizona, opens across the country. We took the opportunity to catch up with the director on offending, entertaining, and how the world has changed since Threesome.
AfterElton.com: First off, what’s your beef with Tucson?
Andrew Fleming: Something very unpleasant did happen to me there, which was a reflection on the city. But um, no, it’s just sort of this idea of this place that’s supposedly "paradise" … There’s just this idea of a city that’s supposedly paradise, but it’s really just flat. It’s a stand-in for what’s wrong with America.
AE: You didn’t grow up there yourself, but you had a personal experience there?
AF: All right. I’ll tell you. I have actually not told anybody this. I screened a movie there that I did a long time ago, Threesome, at the University. And in that movie, the lead character is gay, but it’s a bit of a mislead. You don’t really know for the first 15 minutes and at one point he reveals it in a voice-over and about a third of the audience got up and walked out.
I did some press there and it was very … it wasn’t hostile, but it was clear that my being gay was strange and you know, it’s a Republican state and it’s a very, very, very segregated city. The poor people live here and they’re largely Hispanic and the rich people live over there and they’re largely white. Another close friend of mine was a professor at the University there so I spent a lot of time there, actually.
AE: You sort of play up some of those things in the movie. So you did have some familiarity with the city.
AF: Yeah, I spent a time there. I’ve been there many times, so it wasn’t out of nowhere. It’s just like, you know, Pittsburgh.
AE: If I’m not mistaken, Rand in Hamlet 2 is the first gay character you’ve had since Threesome, am I right?
AF: Oh, no, no. There was the very un-PC character in The In-Laws, the villain it was actually, a self-denying gay man. And let’s see, there were supporting parts, like parts in Nancy Drew, the two thugs at the beginning, there was a gay couple and they’re snapping at each other.
AE: Did you have anything specific in mind when you wrote the character of Rand? Was he taken at all from your life or did you have anywhere specific you wanted to go with this character?
AF: We just … wanted to see a fresh take on that group of high school kids. There was this one point where I thought, “Geez, this is kind of like an insane depiction of a gay character. Like he’s not really the most pathetic guy in the world.”
And I was looking at all the other characters in the movie and they’re all nuts, kind of self-destructive and insane. I thought why should we – I think that’s the greatest disservice to any group, to make any minority appear saintly in some way. Let’s be an equal-opportunity offender. The idea of a film where you’re ennobling the gay character because . . . I don’t know, because it’s the right thing to do politically. I think that that’s worse than anything.
AE: Taking a step back, everyone’s kind of crazy and he has his own issues, and he does move the story along.
AF: His heart’s broken because he’s in love with Dana Marschz. My heart goes out to him.
AE: Did you have a similar experience in high school? Did you have drama classes like that?
AF: I sort of had a moment like that, but it was in the yearbook staff. I left the yearbook staff to go to work in the film, TV department in my high school. It was sort of a grand, dramatic moment.