Handsome Devil director John Butler, brings us the tale of a music-mad 16-year-old outcast at a rugby-mad boarding school who forms an unlikely friendship in this Irish coming-of-age tale.
What was the inspiration behind the film?
I went to a fee-paying, rugby playing all-boys school and found it… tricky. I was gay, and I loved sport and found it hard to reconcile what I thought were two incompatible aspects of myself. They’re not, of course, but it felt that way. It’s a story that sprang from that difficulty, but it’s very much set in the here and now, and just as relevant in 2017. There’s still no ‘out’ premiership soccer player of rugby union player in 2017. Incredible, and sad.
How did you create this idea of a film after The Stag?
Put simply, it was the next story I wanted to tell. I seem to be interested in the idea of male friendship – its boundaries, limitations, great strengths and its habit of enduring in a meaningful way throughout a man’s life, despite the fact that men find it very hard to be emotionally open with each other.
Are the characters based on people you know?
Fictional, for the most part. For all the supporting characters, there’s a dash of one person, a dash of the other from my life, but no straight autobiography is involved, really. As for the two leads, I’d say I’m 50% Conor and 50% Ned.
Since debuting at the Toronto Film Festival, what kind of response have you received so far? Any specific response from the LGBT+ community?
LGBT+ people have been keen to tell me how important it is to see a story of friendship, pure and simple, one that plays out on its own terms, without being sexualised. That’s a story that isn’t told nearly often enough, I felt. And many LGBT+ people seem to concur, which is great. Then kids and young people generally have been keen to let me know how closely it echoes their experience. Those two responses mean the world to me. This isn’t a ‘gay’ film as much as it is a film about identity, and the struggles of youth.
Hopefully everyone can relate to that.
What was the main message you wanted the audience to take away from this film? Hold the line, be true to yourself and never speak in a borrowed voice.