Red, White, & Royal Blue: How Director Matthew López Created This Gay Rom-Com
Author: Alex Cooper
Like all good love stories, Prime Video’s gay romantic comedy Red, White, & Royal Bluenovel by Casey McQuiston follows the first son of the United States of America, Alex Claremont-Diaz (played by Minx’s Taylor Zakhar Perez), and the second in line to the British throne, Henry Fox-Mounchristen-Windsor (played by Cinderella’s Nicholas Galitzine), as their hatred for one another slowly evolves into a friendship and then a romance.
Red, White, & Royal Blue is directed by Tony Award-winning playwright Matthew López and written by him and Ted Malawer.
The story begins with a colossal public relations nightmare as Alex and Henry have a mishap with a very, very large dessert. In what could be one of the most awkward, cringiest scenes in cinema, the two have an embarrassing encounter during Henry’s brother’s wedding — that is, the wedding of the first in line for the British throne — that ends with them in a sweet, sticky mess on the floor. Surely a sign of things to come, right?
“I said to the actors and to everybody working on that scene that what the scene is about is a cake in trouble,” López says. “It is not about two people having an argument; it is about a cake in peril. And looking at it through that lens allowed us to know how to shoot it.”
He explains that by the time they shot the cake scene — about two weeks into filming — the cast and crew knew each other. They were comfortable with one another, especially Zakhar Perez and Galitzine.
“I just remember giving them permission to just be rude. You know, because, like, I didn’t worry about whether the audience would like them or not. [I said] be rude and be reckless. Because it’s, again, about a cake in peril. And they had so much fun just being nasty to each other,” he says.
Up until then, López says, they’d filmed pretty sweet, loving scenes between the actors.
“We had filmed so many scenes of them being lovely to each other, and they are lovely to each other. They are two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet,” he says, “These two actors just genuinely love each other. And then after two and a half weeks, we were starting to get on each other’s nerves a little bit, you know?”
The rest of the movie goes between their awkward encounter to seeing each other for who they really are, and dealing with a reelection campaign on one hand — with Uma Thurman playing the president of the United States — and the British monarchy on the other — with Stephen Fry as the king. It’s an endearing film that may very well set the stage for other LGBTQ+ rom-coms to come.
López explains that while pitching to direct the film, he had confidence that he could do it thanks to lessons he learned from previous projects, including the play The Inheritance, which won the Tony for Best Play in 2020. López wrote the play, which was inspired by Howards End by E.M. Forster. The play focuses on love between gay men in New York several years after the AIDS crisis began.
“I’d never worked on a scale this large with this much responsibility. It was sort of like everything that I’ve done in my career times 20,” the director and writer says. “But I did also feel really prepared for it by the stuff that I’d done before.”
Still, López says there’s nothing really like making your first movie — especially one from as big of a company as Amazon Studios.
“I knew I was up for it. That said, nothing can prepare you for your first movie, which is like, everything, everywhere, all at once. It’s the best; it’s the worst of times,” López says. “There’s a great quote by Sean Connery, which I love: ‘[Making movies] is either utopia or shoveling sh*t uphill.’”
How would López describe directing his first film?
“I’m very happy that for my first film, it was a genuine utopia.”
But to build Red, White, & Royal Blue and take it from a book to a script to a movie, López says he surrounded himself with people who had made previous films.
“I sort of jokingly said I want to be the only person on this set who doesn’t know what they’re doing,” he says. “I learned from my previous work in theater to always be a student. Always.”
The LGBTQ+ film has been making a splash for months now — especially due to its controversial R rating. The very dreamy, fun, and light film stands in opposition to other work by López. However, López says he doesn’t have a perspective yet on the impact it has had or is having on comedies or films generally.
“I think it’s disingenuous for anyone who makes something that is intended to last as long as a movie to say that they don’t think about posterity. But I also know that it’s true that you’re just trying to get through the experience in one piece, and you’re trying to finish the film on time, and you’re trying to make it as good as it possibly can be,” he says.
López explains that he took inspiration from rom-coms like Moonstruck and When Harry Met Sally but also queer films like My Own Private Idaho and Y Tu Mamá También.
“You really are kind of always sort of feeding the machine. You never know how it’s going to turn into an imaginative decision. I don’t know what this movie’s impact will be in the world,” he says.
What he does wish, however, is that Red, White, & Royal Blue makes queer cinema more accepted without diminishing the unique qualities found in this segment of the film industry.
“I hope that there is something mainstreaming about queer cinema that doesn’t turn queer cinema mainstream. Does that make sense?” López asks. “I hope that what changes is the culture in which queer cinema is released. And that the culture doesn’t change what queer cinema is.”
Red, White, & Royal Blue is streaming now on Prime Video.
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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Alex Cooper