“Movie stars don’t have sex – they just don’t,” John Cameron Mitchell said Wednesday night at Landmark’s Nuart Theater during a Q&A following a special screening. of his experimental and sexually explicit film. small bus.
Sure, movie stars get intimate, but they don’t usually have real penetrative sex on camera outside of the porn industry anyway. That’s precisely what Mitchell wanted to capture and explore in the 2006 film, which gets a theatrical re-release and 4K restoration from Oscilloscope Laboratories to mark the 15th anniversary milestone.
small bus stars Sook-Yin Lee, Paul Dawson, Lindsay Beamish, PJ DeBoy, Raphael Barker, Peter Stickles, Jay Brannan and Justin Vivian Bond as a group of New Yorkers navigating love, sex and intimacy in and around of a modern underground living room in a post-9/11 reality. It’s packed with nudity, orgies, erect penises, musical interludes, orgasms and two memorable ejaculation scenes, but Mitchell countered the shock and awe for a long time by recalling that the film is essentially about sex. complexity of relationships.
Mitchell, the actor, screenwriter, director and producer best known for Hedwig and the Angry Thumb, revisited its cult classic in back-to-back screenings on Wednesday and Thursday. During the latter, in the presence of The Hollywood Reporter, Mitchell was joined by fellow film panelists Stickles, Alan Mandell and a performer who goes by the name Bitch. Moderator Manuel Betancourt kicked off the Q&A by asking how the project came about.
“I had seen a lot of movies that used real sex in the early 2000s, and they were sometimes interesting, but they were dark and the sex was bad,” Mitchell explained of her motivation to counter that and mount something more dynamic. and bold. But because he knew Hollywood stars wouldn’t sign on for such a project, he cast a wide net with a public casting call that asked interested parties to send in an audition tape featuring them talking about “an emotional sexual experience,” Mitchell recalled. of the process which began at the beginning of 2002.
From the submissions, the producers selected 40 contestants for encores that doubled as parties and dancing as a way to explore chemistry. “We had a great time,” he noted. “They watched each other’s tapes because I had to see who was in love with each other.”
The group was eventually whittled down to nine actors who joined a month-long workshop, held in New York’s East Village in a rented loft. This is where Mitchell shaped the story by drawing inspiration from his actors. The gay couple at the center of the story, Dawson and DeBoy, were a real-life couple and Mitchell said they were still together, now living in ‘witness protection’ in Florida, he joked .
Lee, who plays a pre-orgasmic sex therapist on a quest to finally climax, is a multi-hyphenated Canadian who at the time nearly lost her job at the CBC due to the NC-17 action. Francis Ford Coppola, Julianne Moore, Gus Van Sant, Yoko Ono, David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan and Michael Stipe wrote letters on her behalf that saved the hosting gig for her.
“It was ahead of its time, in many ways,” Mitchell said of how the film was received during its rollout that began at the Cannes Film Festival and continued with other filmmakers. festival screenings and an international release via ThinkFilm. “The people say Hedwig was also. Hedwig was a flop in theaters and people found it later. small bus made some money, but it wasn’t a huge success. People were still afraid.
It has grossed $5.5 million worldwide, and Mitchell said he’s happy to see it make another run in theaters, especially right now when he says a different kind of scare has emerged. around sex. Reception will be tested as small bus opens in New York on January 26 followed by screenings in February and March in Seattle, Iowa City, Denver, San Francisco, New Orleans, Irvine, Detroit, Cleveland, Portland and Austin.
“There’s a panic about sex now,” he explained. “In the past it was more about the Christian religious right, and now there is a bit more panic on the left. In the wake of #MeToo and the consent stuff, a lot of young people are starting to get really nervous about sex. It’s almost as if there was sex, someone was then exploited. We have a Puritan streak in our culture and unfortunately the rush to fix things that need to be fixed has tarnished the name of sex in general. It’s almost like that [writer] The Andrea Dworkin thing, if someone gets penetrated, someone gets hurt, which I have to disagree with because I’m fucked.
Mitchell suggested the film could be therapeutic for viewers as it was up to him to create. “I was raised very Catholic and so sex was bad and queer sex was worse,” he said. “It was also my own therapy, to remind us that sex is part of life. We think of the film as a relationship. It’s loaded with sex and in the end, it’s the last thing you think about , just like a relationship.
He said this with a laugh, before ending with a serious reflection on the film’s artistic impact. “There are deeper things going on. It’s a good thing to see now when there’s a little panic to do anything. Straight guys don’t even know if they could ever ask a girl out again without crossing a line, and they don’t know what the line is. There’s so much tension about hurting or offending or triggering. It’s full of triggers. I love a trigger. Art triggers, in a good way.