"I'VE BEEN ON Cloud Nine since January," gushes Jim Fall during a promo stop in New York for his debut feature, trick. "We got into Sundance's dramatic competition. We sold the film to a distributor with money [Fine Line Features], and they've done a Web site, bus stop posters, and billboards. We've been to festivals all over the world, and we opened on our home turf [New York City] almost a year to the day after we wrapped shooting. It's been utterly, utterly magical."
And so have the numbers. In its opening weekend, trick--a romantic comedy-drama about a shy musical-theater composer (Christian Campbell) who meets an extroverted go-go hottie (J.P. Pitoc) in the West Village, whereupon the two try in vain to find a place to consummate their crush--earned the highest per-screen average gross of any gay film in history. This success is no doubt due in part to the chief trickster's insistence that Fine Line promote openly gay actors Clinton Leupp (who plays the bitterly funny drag queen Miss Coco Peru) and Steve Hayes (as the composer's middle-aged, roly-poly musical mentor) right along with straight leads Campbell, Pitoc, and Tori Spelling (who stretches not at all, some would say, in the role of a wannabe actress).
"It makes sense they would send Tori, Christian and J.P around," says Fall of the studio's travel arrangements. "But when I became aware that Clinton's image was on the teaser poster, I wanted him flown to the festivals, too. I mean, he's the poster girl! Fine Line agreed immediately, but it was interesting that they weren't doing it automatically."
The 36-year-old Fall has been thinking for a long time about gay movies, having wanted to make them even in childhood, because, as he says, "there were none." A native of Holidaysburg, Pennsylvania, Fall attended both Temple University and NYU, but never graduated. He moved to New York in 1982, when, he recalls somewhat incredulously, "54, the Mineshaft, and the Saint were still open. There were great clubs, and AIDS hadn't really hit." The fledgling director paid his dues at the Vortex Theater Company, where he directed cheeky, lurid spectacles such as Christmas On Hell Island (wherein an evil scientist performs genetic tests on fish and people) and Chorus Girls on Mars (about a planetary search that turns up more than hot rocks). "There were some ugly nights on Hell Island," he moans, "and the matinee on Mars was not pretty. But I really credit the Vortex with helping me cut my teeth as a director."
Almost to a fault, trick is a gay romance with crossover potential. And, like any one-night stand, the film is exciting in the short term but pretty much over before it starts. Still, Fall insists that he isn't grooming himself for big studio-movie assignments. "I will always gravitate toward comedic material and toward gay material, because that's who I am," he says. "But I'd also like to do a very, very scary movie. Or a completely, utterly, thoroughly depressing drama. As for trick, I think the reason it has been so embraced is because it's true to the spirit of the gay community."
trick is playing at the Uptown Theatre.
Get the Film & TV Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.