Q&A with Andrew Haigh, writer/director/editor of Weekend opening today at Denver Film Center
Andrew Haigh's IMDB filmography includes editing credits for Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and Hannibal Rising. He's also written and directed two films, the latest being Weekend, a movie about two gay men that has little sex, a good deal of drugs, and lots and lots of talk -- without a single decapitated head in sight.
Weekend opens today at the Denver Film Center after getting rave reviews from just about everywhere, with a 93% on Rotten Tomato. More than a few reviews marveled at its realism and universality. It may be a film about two gay men, but don't label it as just a gay film. It's much, much more -- even if no cars blow up.
Here's our Q&A with writer, director and editor Andrew Haigh:
Westword (Jenny An): How did the movie first develop?
Andrew Haigh: I just wanted to tell the story of two guys falling for each other and do it as honestly as I could. Also, I suppose, to do something different on the screen and portray gay relationships in a different way and deal with issues we don't see on screen as much. It kind of came from there--but just an honest story about two people, I suppose.
WW: You play with a lot of gay stereotypes -- one-night stands, gay clubs, etc. How do you see the film interacting with those and subverting them?
AH: That was always my plan. I like the idea of starting the film and you think, "Oh god, it's going to be one of those films." They meet in a club and they hook up and I knew that was what people kind of expected. And then, like you said, subvert that a little bit -- have their conversations the next morning not be what you'd expect.
Each time I set up a kind of stereotype and try and play with that a little bit. And not just in terms of the gay characters but also in terms of how romantic dramas go as well.
WW: This idea of the classic romantic comedy is really prevalent in the film. How do you see that idea, which is really hetero-normative, work with gay culture and gay romance?
We're so used to seeing that on screen, whether you're gay or straight. It's sort of what you have to live up to in our romantic lives. The representation of our romantic lives are that way on screen.
I don't think it's any harder for a gay person or a straight person. The reality of our lives is never like what you see in those romantic comedies or dramas. Things don't always end good. Things don't usually end good. We don't race through towns to have a romantic, passionate good-bye. When you are gay, you see these heterosexual set-ups and you do feed into that a little bit, but you see that for us, it's different.
WW: A lot of the film focuses on straight-gay friendships, especially between men. How do you see straight and gay men talk about relationships and sex differently, and how did you try to portray it in your film?
AH: Most of my friends are straight as well. Everyone is very accepting and everyone says it's no problem, but I don't really discuss too much with them. I think that may be the case for a lot of gay people whose friends are all straight. It's not that you're necessarily embarrassed. It's just a hard thing to talk about and I think it's hard on both sides.
The way, when guys get together and all talk about their girlfriends, it's a bit different when you're gay and talking to the guys about that. There's an element of feeling uncomfortable. In this film, it's [lead character] Russell's fear of what his friends will think rather than the actual reality.
WW: And where do you think the barriers for someone who's gay still are?
AH: I think it's interesting that as society becomes more equal--there's obviously still a lot of prejudice out there and it's different in Chelsea in New York and SoHo in London than in smaller cities and other countries--so there's still a lot. There's also a lot of internal baggage you carry around when you're gay. You remember what it was like when you were younger and what it felt like when you had to come out to your parents, and your friends, and every time you had to start a new job. It's a constant telling people who you are.
WW: Movies about gay characters often get classified as "gay movies" and are supposed to say something about all gay life. How do you feel about that?
AH: It's kind of a frustration. I understand it. And it's funny to me because it's kind of what the film is all about--the many ways to define a person. But of course the minute you release a film, they define it very quickly into being a gay movie.
WW: So how would you describe the movie?
AH: To me, it's a movie about two gay people. Of course, that doesn't have much of a ring to it as being a "gay film." If people want to call it a gay film, I'm not embarrassed or angry about it. It is about gay people and I'm doing that honestly and realistically. But it's about other things as well. But it's an inevitability when you make a film like this. I guess what it does is limit you. It puts certain people off. I want more than just gay people to see it.
WW: And the [other lead character] Glen expresses similar frustrations about not being able to show his gay-centered art to a wider public.
AH: When I wrote the script, it was certainly a frustration of mine. But actually, the film has done so much better than I thought it was going to do. Like a spread out burn that I never thought it would--that my argument in the film didn't turn out to be true. It's a relief and it's interesting.
WW: Have you been offered any new projects since Weekend?
AH: I have an agent now so I get sent scripts. The great thing about America is that you make a film and they think you can do all kinds of things. They're not big studio pictures but they're major things, not just two people talking in a room. Interesting material.
WW: And have the majority of the scripts you've been getting been gay-oriented or do they span a wider range?
AH: No, actually. Most haven't been gay-oriented. Which is good. I'm happy to do gay material and I'm gay and I'm not embarrassed about it, but it's nice not being limited to only doing gay material.