Love, Simon is a coming of age romantic comedy that focuses on a gay teenage boy’s attempts to navigate the tricky world of high school whilst in the closet. Produced by 20th Century Fox, it is the first big-budget mainstream film of its kind to feature an explicitly gay main character, and prioritises his budding relationship with mysterious pen-pal “Blue” as a central plot line. Following an advance screening of the film, which officially drops in the UK this Friday, the open emotion among audience members was tangible – a crowd which included as many old age pensioners as it did the intended teenage audience. In a conversation with Chris McEwan, co-producer of Love, Simon, we discuss his work, his thoughts on the film, and where he believes it fits into the wider scheme of the industry.
What sort of responsibilities did you have as a co-producer on Love, Simon? Did you have much creative involvement in terms of the direction of the film, or were you more focused on the technical side of things?
As a co-producer on the film, most of my work extended towards the film’s pre-production and development process. To that end, our amazing writers and director — Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, and Greg Berlanti, respectively — were the real keepers of the creative process, we did script notes, cast lists, lists for department heads, and other creative work that logistically paves the way for the production of the film. Also, in keeping with my past work with New Leaf Literary & Media, a lot of my work in the process was oriented around first setting the book up for production with our studio Fox 2000, and our amazing co-producers, Temple Hill.
What attracted you to this project personally, is it similar to anything you’ve worked on in the past?
I always love a good coming-of-age story — be it The Graduate, Ferris Bueller, Fast Times, Rushmore, or even recent movies like Diary of a Teenage Girl and The Spectacular Now. And what was so exciting about this project, as it became clear upon reading Becky Albertalli’s beautiful novel, was that it felt exactly like the great teen movies that had been an integral part of my adolescence, but with this completely fresh twist of exploring sexuality and what it means to come out. It felt just as comforting as movies that I knew and loved, but emotionally fresh in this unexpected way, and that’s just part of what made it so undeniable.
Did you face any unique difficulties working to produce a major film with clear LGBTQ themes? Why is it possible now, where it may not have been a decade ago?
Thankfully Fox immediately got what the movie was and was so supportive of doing it as a big, wide-release title. There’s definitely a version of this movie that exists as a smaller indie, but thankfully, Fox has generally distinguished themselves (alongside Temple Hill) by taking risks on a number of teen titles over the last few years, from The Fault in Our Stars and onward. When it came to the LGBTQ themes, we never got any pushback from them, and they were really synched in with us politically.
While watching the film, I was struck by the way in which it included traditional romantic comedy tropes, but from a fresh perspective. For example; the secret admirer figure in “Blue”, a confession at a football game, underage drinking at a raging party, morning carpool runs with a group of friends. Was that an intentional choice on the part of the production team, perhaps for the benefit of gay viewers accustomed to reimagining these scenes from a straight context?
Absolutely! We were very conscious through all levels of the making of the movie that the thing that would render it subversive and cool would be embracing those genre tropes from the movies we’d loved. If you’re a gay viewer who’s never been able to see yourself in this context, we wanted to change that by having the construction of the movie to play as universal at every turn, and those tropes were a huge help in that regard.
Simon’s personal coming out arc was central, but it was also interesting to see it paralleled with Nick, who has his own insecurities to work past, and Abby, who learns to navigate her own ‘world changing’ thanks to an absent father. Do you think that a film like this, which emphasises the similarities between gay and straight teens as much as it does the differences, could serve as a stepping stone for future major movies focusing on LGBTQ romance?
Hopefully! I really hope so. The idea that we were hoping would register as key — while primarily just hoping that it would make for a good story — is that Simon’s story is your normal teen coming-of-age narrative, which just happens to be from a queer perspective. And if that paves the way for more mainstream LGBTQ stories in major studio movies, then I think we’ll have done our jobs!
Love, Simon releases nationwide this Friday, April 6th. Watch the trailer here: