Boy meets go-go boy and they try to find a place to hook-up…
That’s the basic premise of Trick, but if you’ve seen the beloved 1999 film, you know it’s actually a sweet and charming romantic comedy that has endured and is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year.
In the New York-based film, directed by Jim Fall and written by Jason Schafer, Gabriel (Christian Campbell) first sees go-go boy Mark (J.P. Pitoc) shaking it at a local gay bar, but a chance meeting on the subway later takes them on an all-night adventure that goes from a piano bar, Tori Spelling (who played Gabriel’s BFF, Katherine), a dance club and Gabriel’s memorable bathroom interaction with none other than Miss Coco Peru.
To commemorate the film, UCLA is hosting an Outfest Legacy screening this Saturday in Los Angeles along with a Q&A with Fall, Campbell, and Pitoc in attendance.
TheBacklot had the chance to chat with the three men—and Spelling—about their memories of making the film and why they think it’s still highly regarded today.
It Was The Summer of ’98… when Trick filmed on location in New York City. “I was already a little weary of coming out movies and movies dealing with gays, and also movies dealing with gay guys falling for straight guys,” Fall said of the LGBT film climate at the time. “I always found that annoying and kind of homophobic, to be honest… I wanted to tell a movie that was just about how gay people live. And at the time, there hadn’t been any gay movies that were just about being gay [and] just falling in love or trying to fall in love.”
Casting Mark, the Go-Go Boy: “They found me first,” remembered Pitoc. “They had Christian in mind, but this is the harder role to cast.” Fall agreed that the Mark role was definitely the bigger challenge. “Mark was harder because my casting director [sent] in these guys who were good actors but they didn’t have like go-go boy bodies, you know? You go to these clubs and these guys that have rocking bodies and I had to find somebody who could act and also had that body, and that’s really hard.”
But Fall saw Pitoc in an NYC play where a group of men, a muscled Pitoc among them, were dressed only in their underwear while reading monologues. “I already got to see everything,” Fall laughed, “and [JP] got up and did this monologue and I was with Eric [d’Arbeloff], my producer, and I thought, ‘oh my God, that’s our guy.’”
…and sweet, vulnerable Gabriel: Even though he had those nice-guy good looks including adorable dimples, Campbell was not a shoe-in for the role. Fall admits to not initially getting the sense that the actor was vulnerable enough from his first audition but fate thankfully intervened. “My casting director knew he was right and I guess gave him the notes that I had tried to get him to do in the room,” Fall recalled, “and [Christian] worked on it and came back and gave a completely different audition. He was really wonderful and sweet and vulnerable and everything Gabriel needed to be, and then he came, it was perfect.”
Tori Spelling as Katherine: Spelling was a big TV star at the time from starring on the original Beverly Hills 90210 but she auditioned with everyone else for the role of wannabe actress Katherine. “She won the role fair and square,” Fall remembered. “I came up to LA, she auditioned, she was great. She did the diner scene and it just was so hysterical and great.” Did her name help get the movie made? Nope. “We already had the money and she just was cast because she was good,” confirmed Fall.
For Spelling, her 90210 schedule kept her busy but, she explained, “During summer hiatus I was always looking for a great project with a quirky character to film. Once I read Trick I knew I had to be a part of it! It was such a special script and the character of Katherine was amazing!”
Gay or Gay for Pay? Fifteen years ago, you didn’t have mega-stars like Michael Douglas and Matt Damon playing lovers in films so it was a very different perception for straight actors like Campbell and Pitoc taking on gay roles. “Having been in that movie,” Campbell explained, “it opened up a community. The gay community was incredibly supportive of me, over the past 15 years now… on the other hand, there was an opposing feeling to it as well, because it was still a time when if you do a gay role, then everyone thinks you’re gay… but now it’s different. You can go off and do gay roles and it doesn’t pigeonhole you… but it was a sweet gift, and at the same time, I faced a wall afterwards as well.”
Years after Trick, Pitoc had the chance to thank actor Harry Hamlin, with whom he appeared in the film Shoot or Be Shot, for starring as a gay man in Making Love in 1982 when a film with gay characters was a rare breed. “I said, ‘You know, thank you first of all for doing that because if you hadn’t done that, there wouldn’t be a place for me to do my part in Trick, and I wouldn’t be here right now working with you… he was great, a very gracious guy.”
The Diner Scene: Spelling remembered the scene where Katherine lays into Gabriel and also loses her mind because her cheese fries came with no cheese. “The night we filmed the diner scene it was a long night,” she recalled. “I kept drinking coffee trying up keep my energy up but we didn’t start filming that scene till 3am. I was exhausted. Sheer willpower and passion got me through filming it. Still my fave line in any movie I’ve ever done!”
A Different Gay Film: While many LGBT films dealt with darker, dramatic themes, Campbell said he wasn’t originally aware how much the simple love story angle had impacted audiences. “I wasn’t aware that it was a different take until after it premiered at Sundance,” he said. “So much of the response I got from people who saw it was such appreciation for a movie that wasn’t about coming out or wasn’t about dying of AIDS. It was just a sweet love story, and it just so happened, in his sweet love story, that our protagonists were both male. That was the thing. It stood on its own.”
Miss Coco Peru as… herself! Fall and Clinton Leupp (aka Miss Coco) had known each other way before Trick so it was a no-brainer to include the fabulous drag queen. But was the infamous bathroom scene where Miss Coco talks about how a certain bodily fluid burns when getting in your eye fully scripted or improvised? “The bathroom scene wasn’t in the original script. We wrote it in for Coco,” said Fall. “Then Clint re-wrote most of that monologue himself. It wasn’t improvised. He told me that exact story. Clint said he’d been with a hot Latino guy who said ‘It’s big, it’s beautiful, and you’re gonna love it.’”
And Miss Coco appeared in another scene but you have to look carefully, Fall revealed. “No one knows this but Clint is in the final bathroom scene where the boys almost kiss, but I cut his part out. If you watch the diner scene, the only person you see cross outside the window and enter the diner is Coco! But no one sees it, thank God, because I cut him out of the bathroom scene. I cut it because the moment is so sweet there, and putting in another ‘joke’ with Coco seemed inappropriate. Now, I’m not so sure…”
Memories… Campbell said of making the film that summer, “we were working independent film hours but we had a good time because we were shooting gritty stuff in New York, which helped us immerse ourselves in the world as well, especially as a person who wasn’t a New Yorker at that point.” Overall, Pitoc summed it up his recollections by saying he had “sweet memories of just these wonderfully creative people humming along and working together on this passion project.” Spelling is very aware of how the film has helped a lot of people. “Fans talk about Trick all the time,” she said. “So many gay men tell me that Trick was a pivotal movie in their lives. Means the world to me.”
Trick: The Sequel: While Fall said the sequel isn’t ready to lens quite yet, Campbell, Pitoc, and Spelling are all ready to revisit their beloved characters. Campbell envisioned that the films could be a gay version of Before Sunrise. “We could do that, right? Why not? I’m all for it. I think it’s great. One of these films every 15 years? Perfect!”
Pitoc shared his take on where Gabriel and Mark would be today. “I always like the happily ever after thing,” he said. “And I think that they would stay together and they’d have kids. That’s where they are.” The actor said that Fall’s response to that pitch was “It’ll never be like anything you just said.”
Spelling had her own take on where the characters are today and said Katherine would still very much a part of the guys’ lives. “I always saw her still wedging her way into Gabe’s relationship. Even offering to be a surrogate for them while she does a one woman musical on Mommie Dearest. That’s my fantasy! Haha!”