Roland Emmerich, Jeremy Irvine on the controversial Stonewall movie

Chatting with Jeremy Irvine about the new Stonewall film.
by Larry Murray

Stonewall, written by John Robin Baitz and directed by Roland Emmerich is attracting a lot of controversy as to its depiction of the event. Unfortunately as it opens Friday in wide release, there is not one Berkshire movie screen which be showing it, so we may have to wait until the DVD release to judge for ourselves just how well it tells its story. I think the title should have been more “Stonewall: A Coming Out Story” rather than the declarative Stonewall which sets it up for people to judge as a documentary. Having heard at least a dozen narratives from people I have met over the decades who were there when the pushback to the vice cops began, I can assure you that there is no definitive story to tell, each participant, from the bartenders to the patrons has a different take on the incidents surrounding it. And some in the LGBT community are trying – well after the fact – to rewrite history so that it includes them.

But it is really a coming out and surviving in a hostile world tale more than anything. I was fortunate to talk to its star, Jeremy Irvine long before the film’s trailer was put together, and the controversy erupted.

Jeremy Irvine plays a fictional young man from Indiana caught up in the 1969 Stonewall Riots. His character Danny Winters is forced to leave behind friends and loved ones when he is kicked out of his parent’s home and flees to New York.

Alone in Greenwich Village, homeless and destitute, he befriends a group of street kids who soon introduce him to the local watering hole The Stonewall Inn; however, this shady, mafia-run club is far from a safe-haven.

As Danny and his friends experience discrimination, endure atrocities and are repeatedly harassed by the police, we see a rage begin to build.

This emotion runs through Danny and the entire community of young gays, lesbians and drag queens who populate the Stonewall Inn and erupts in a storm of anger. With the toss of a single brick, a riot ensues and a crusade for equality is born.

When we last talked together, Jeremy Irvine and I ticked off his list of films so far, and he said a bit about the upcoming Stonewall.

Jeremy Irvine’s take on Stonewall

Larry Murray: This is a complete change of pace for you.

Jeremy Irvine: Yes, Danny is a fictionalized character in the film, but I met this guy, and he’s a real person, and he showed me his coming out letter. It was so incredibly moving, I read it every Monday morning before starting shooting. As I prepared for the role I thought about how very traumatic that must be.

Larry: Didn’t you get a bit of that in school, weren’t you considered a bit geekish?

Jeremy: Well, I went to an all boys school, and it was very much like that. Coming out at school was very difficult in those days…

Larry: And that wasn’t so long ago.

Jeremy: …but it is very different these days.

Larry: Hooray for that. What was the atmosphere on the film set?

Jeremy: Oh, while it is a very interesting role for an actor, the story itself is very much an ensemble effort, and it feels like it this is more than just a film. There’s a very important message, and a full story to it. I think it is one of three or four roles I’ve played that will mean something to people.

Release date

With the word of mouth just beginning, everyone wants to know when they will be able to see Irvine play against type in this film which is perfectly timed to fit the current news headlines about the latest LGBT controversies on marriage equality.

Roadside has set September 25, 2015 for the film’s release,It is an independently produced film starring Jeremy Irvine, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Ron Perlman and Jonny Beauchamp. Goldcrest Films is handling the International rights.

Roland Emmerich

Roland Emmerich

“Roland Emmerich’s Stonewall is an explosive, dramatic story set against one of the monumental events of the twentieth century, The Stonewall Riots,” said Roadside Attractions Co-President Howard Cohen. “Roadside is so proud to bring this stirring film to audiences.”

Roland Emmerich said, “I was always interested and passionate about telling this important story, but I feel it has never been more timely than right now. I am excited to work with Howard, Eric and the team at Roadside to get this film to audiences across the country. They have a unique approach to handling movies like Stonewall.”

Less than 50 years ago, in 1969, being gay was considered a mental illness. Gay people could not be employed by the government. It was illegal for gay people to congregate, and police brutality against gays went unchecked.

BOStonewallsep25

Jon Robin Baitz

Written by Jon Robin Baitz, Stonewall is produced by Roland Emmerich, Michael Fossat, Marc Frydman, and Carsten Lorenz; and executive producers are Kirstin Winkler, Adam Press and Michael Roban.

Wonderful cast

The film stars Jeremy Irvine (War Horse), Jonny Beauchamp (How to Make It in America), Caleb Landry Jones (X-Men: First Class), Joey King (White House Down) up-and-comers Karl Glusman, Vlademir Alexis, and Alexandre Nachi as well as veteran actor Matt Craven, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Match Point, “The Tudors”) and Ron Perlman (Hellboy.)

Recreating Stonewall

The Stonewall creative team includes Director of Photography, Markus Förderer; Production Designer, Michelle Laliberté; Editor Adam Wolfe; and Costume Designer, Simonetta Mariano. The film was shot in and around Montreal, including Lachine and Howick, Quebec. Roland Emmerich and his production team re-created “the village” in Manhattan circa 1969 in a former train repair facility in Montreal. The elaborate set included the detailed, authentic recreation of the interior and exterior of the Stonewall Inn and the entire Christopher Street neighborhood. It also featured the largest printed backdrop ever created which added in the final element of the skyline for both daytime and nighttime shots. During the filming of the riot scenes with over 500 extras in period costumes and the detailed recreation of the neighborhood, stepping onto the set was like taking a time machine back to New York City in the late 60’s.

ABOUT ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS

In just over a decade, Roadside Attractions films have grossed over $200M and garnered thirteen Academy Award® nominations. Roadside has released such critical and commercial hits as A Most Wanted Man, Dear White People, The Skeleton Twins, All Is Lost, Mud, Winter’s Bone, The Cove, Arbitrage, Margin Call and Super-Size Me. Its upcoming slate includes Jean-Baptiste Léonetti’s Beyond the Reach starring Academy Award® winner Michael Douglas and Jeremy Irvine; Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy starring John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti; and Mr. Holmes, directed by Academy Award® winner Bill Condon and starring Ian McKellen and Laura Linney.

ABOUT CENTROPOLIS ENTERTAINMENT

Centropolis Entertainment is the film and television production company of international filmmakers, director/writer/producer Roland Emmerich, and his sister, producer Ute Emmerich. Since the company’s inception in 1985, its 25 films – including Independence Day, Stargate, The Patriot, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, Godzilla and Anonymous — have grossed over $3 billion worldwide.

Centropolis Entertainment is in development on several film and television projects. Those recently announced include: sequels to the blockbuster film, Independence Day; Emergence, a contemporary, science-based alien invasion story; Maya Lord, based on the historical novel about a shipwrecked man enslaved by a Mayan tribe; a six-hour television miniseries based on the life of T.E. Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia; the virtual reality drama series New Angeles and an untitled action thriller set on an arctic dive ship; and the recently announced trilogy reimagining the Stargate universe, based on the 1994 hit film.

3 thoughts on “Roland Emmerich, Jeremy Irvine on the controversial Stonewall movie

  1. I’m eager to see this, though I do wish they had not appropriated the name Stonewall. There already is an excellent fiction film about the riots called Stonewall.

    Speaking of which, I was working in the West Village in the 1990s when they were filming the first Stonewall movie. I stepped out of the my office to discover I was on a street in 1969 complete with vintage-era cop cars and everything! It was so weird.

    • Yes, the re-use of that title is going to complicate things. The script is by ultra-successful writer Jon Robin Baitz whose “Three Hotels” was part of the 2011 Williamstown Theatre Festival (review). From 1990 to 2002, Baitz was the romantic partner of actor and director Joe Mantello. His approach to Stonewall – to build fictional characters we can relate to around the historic protests – promises this will be far more than a simple documentary or polemic. And Jeremy Irvin is an interview I have been chasing for a year now, but most of his publicity duties are to promote the film, and I want to get at the person underneath, a Type 1 diabetic who places his health at risk every time he undertakes weight loss for a role, or gets broiled under the desert sun.

  2. Pingback: “Stonewall” crumbles at the box office, earning only $871 per screen opening weekend | BERKSHIRE ON STAGE and SCREEN

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