Why The Boys In The Band Director Wouldn't Let Jim Parsons And Matt Bomer 'Off The Hook' In One Emotional Scene

Director Joe Mantello Praised Jim And Matt's Performances In 'The Boys In The Band'

Mantello spoke with Deadline in 2020 about the project and shared his insight into the actors' performances.

Parsons plays the character of Michael and Bomer plays the character of Donald. Michael and Donald are ex-boyfriends who still appear interested in one another. Mantello discussed one particular scene in the film where there is a close-up shot on Michael's face. He is looking at Donald with a longing that is unspoken in the dialogue.

"It was something that we tried to do on stage and it worked, but it's much more impactful with a film closeup," Mantello said. "One of the things we found interesting was the specifics of that relationship – why can't they be together? One of the other characters says everybody already thinks they are anyway, and so they have everything but a physical relationship."

"The idea of that divide between intimacy and sex for those two characters we found to be really, really interesting," he continued.

"Even at the end, there's this moment that breaks my heart, and it's so subtle and I don't know if people will pick up on it, but when Donald says to Michael, 'Will I see you next Saturday?,' Jim just looks at him like 'yes, yes,' and there's this great yearning and it almost can't be articulated."

Jim Parsons Spoke About The 'Heartbreaking' Way His Character Acts In The Film

When the original version of The Boys In The Band premiered on stage in 1968, it was a year before the landmark events at The Stonewall Inn. Those events would help push the movement for LGBTQ equality forward and change the course of history in the process.

Due to the time the play first premiered, many audiences weren't ready to accept gay men and were shocked by the production. In 2020, Parsons spoke to Here & Now, where he spoke about the play's enduring legacy. He also stated the play was the first time gay men were both central and the only characters in a work.

While Parsons said some found the representation "intriguing and wonderful," opinions changed following the events at Stonewall.

"This piece has really gone through a tumultuous history as far as it being rejected in many corners at different times by the very community it aimed to represent, who said 'we don't want to be represented this way. These people seem to be self-hating. They have to hide,'" Parsons said.

Parsons called Crowley's writing "brutally honest" and said this is part of the reason it remains relevant today. His character, Michael, seemingly hates himself and his sexuality. When Michael throws a birthday party for his friend Harold, he decides to play a party game with his guests. The game involves each person calling up someone they love on the phone and confessing their feelings.

Parsons referred to the game's premise as "heartbreaking," since this was a time gay men were considered deviants.

"Michael wants to force each of them into going through this to realize how ridiculous the idea of true love is for a homosexual — that as a gay person, you will never know what it is to love. Not in the way that everyone else gets to," Parsons said. "And I just believe that they were living in a time that was teaching them that."

Matt Bomer Discussed The Heavy Emotional Scenes He Played Alongside Jim Parsons

Bomer talked to TV Insider in 2020 about his role as Donald. He also shared his theory about why Donald and Michael weren't acting on their feelings.

"I think they cared deeply about each other and if Michael's character could control his drinking, I think Donald would be open to being more than friends but he knows that may not happen anytime soon," he said.

"But he loves him deeply, and I think it's very clear from the way they behave around each other in the first few minutes of the piece. You can see how comfortable they are in front of each other."

Donald and Michael share some pretty intense emotional scenes in the film. During the film's final scene between the two, both actors received some very specific direction from Mantello.

"With all the scenes, I don't think any of us wanted to rely on just going into it the way we did initially," Bomer said referring to the Broadway production. "We wanted to try to use things that we knew seem to translate well, that you find over the course of a run, but [also] be very open to things."

He continued, "Actually, I think in that scene [near the end of the film] it was really Joe Mantello who pushed us and said, 'No, you're not getting off the hook in this scene. You have to go to Hell. You have to go to Hell in this scene.' I'll never forget that piece of direction and just gave us this sense of, 'OK, we better … It's time to just go there.'"

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