In 2006 the gay indie film Drama-dy, Boy Culture made a big splash on the film festival circuit. Based on the novel Boy Culture, by pop culturalist and author Matthew Rettenmund, the movie tells the story of a very handsome, young gay male escort who for the sake of anonymity, goes solely by the name of “X.”
Soon, gays worldwide and the general audience as well, are in for a real treat as the movie’s creators have rebooted the film, transitioning it into a new series. Much of the cast and crew will return for Boy Culture, the series which takes place ten years later from where the story left off.
Portrayed by beautiful, boy-faced actor Derek Magyar, X walks the line of controlling his own narrative yet with a growing vulnerability as he realizes he is falling in love with one of his two roommates – Andrew, played by Darryl Stephens.
As X tries to manage his attraction to Andrew, he simultaneously breaks his own rules of keeping an emotional distance between himself and others – mostly the Johns who hire him for sexual trysts. Unexpectedly, he develops an unusually close, somewhat paternal relationship with one of his older clients. Add to that milieu, the second roommate is in love with X, and though they have a formidable friendship, X does not reciprocate a romantic interest.
Boy Culture moves like a confessional, allowing X to share the emotional entanglements of his complex relationships, the most powerful of which exists between X and Andrew. Cinematically they are beautiful together on screen as they navigate through their Andrew’s litany of emotional baggage and prior life of heterosexuality.
As for the acting, Magyar and Stephens have organic sexual chemistry that does not feel forced in their scenes of intimacy. It never seems exploitive but rather romantic, with the angst of newness and the butterflies we have all experienced from that “someone special” who finally kisses your long awaiting lips.
Audiences responded well to Magyar as he portrayed smoldering X, with that sexy buzzed head, and steel blue Persian cat-shaped eyes. Stephens also shined in the film with his symmetrically perfect face (and bubble butt), showing a range and maturity as an actor. In Boy Culture, Stephens exudes a depth that elevates him beyond his formidable success in the lead role of “Noah” on the HBO series Noah’s Arc.
In an overall review of the film, Ronnie Scheib from Variety wrote, “A strong cast, formal visual style and cynical voiceover that propels the action help elevate this Seattle-set gay romp from the ranks of the stereotypical.”
Boy Culture is a standout in the gay film genre, and as such, I suspect the series will keep its integrity, avoiding cheap laughs, vulgarity, and cliches. As a film, Boy Culture shines with a thoughtful script, smart production, and substantial commitment from its lead and supporting cast. Most impressive to me is the actor Derek Magyar, who, as it turns out, is not gay at all.
Magyar is a sexually confident, heterosexual man. Learning this about him intrigued me because his portrayal of X felt so authentic. At no point in the film did I think he had limits or the reservations we sometimes sense when we watch straight actors kiss another man or do a gay nude scene. On the contrary, audiences fell in love with Magyar’s portrayal of X because it is real, and most of us assumed he was a gay actor.
I recently had a discussion with Magyar. We spoke about the upcoming Boy Culture television series, and I got to ask him what it’s like for a straight man to play a gay hustler… and kiss hottie-fellow actor, Darryl Stephens:
CA: Derek, in the film Boy Culture, you played the character of “X.” He’s a gay male escort who uses the name “X” to remain anonymous in his “encounters” and guard his emotions. How did you come to the land the role of X?
DM: My agent at the time, had sent me the script. It was well written, and I thought that the character was really interesting and rich. So I auditioned.
I was really interested in trying to take it on if I were allowed the opportunity. I met with the director Allan, all the producers, and read. Then had a couple of chemistry reads, and the next thing I knew, Darryl myself and Jonathan Trent were on a plane heading to Seattle to shoot the movie.
CA: Wow. Yeah, and I read that it was eighteen days of intensity to get the film done?
DM: Yeah, I think we got it done in eighteen or nineteen days. It was a very well-run crew, you know from the director on down, everybody was there to work hard and believed in the project. There were some long days, but we had an amazing line producer – Jenny Hinkey, who I’ve worked with since on a feature that I directed.
We also had a great editor Phillip Bartell, so I think all the elements –from the script obviously where it all starts – to direction and performance; it all kind of clicked into place.
CA: I’ve met Matthew Rettenmund who wrote the book on which the film is based. I think in the book, it took place in Chicago. In comparison, the film version takes place in Seattle? Were there other changes?
DM: Yes, there were some changes made, but mostly the story remained the same.
CA: One significant change –the character that Darryl Stephens plays was not written as an African American. Of course, Stephens was coming off of the success of his hit series Noah’s Ark. You guys have great chemistry, and I just want to ask, as an interesting pivot, you are not a gay man in real life? You are a heterosexual man?
DM: That is true. That is correct.
CA: Lol And we do not hold it against you. I promise.
DM: Lol. Thank you.
Derek Magyar shares a sneak peek at Boy Culture, the series.
CA: You’re welcome. When an actor who is not a gay actor takes on a roll like that, where there are going to be scenes of physicality, kissing and whatever else, how do you approach it in a believable way versus some actors who are just like, “Oh, no I can’t, I just can’t do that?”
DM: For me, you know, I just felt the connection to the character, and I think everything else kind of felt entirely organic. It wasn’t something that I had to work up the courage to do. You know, I’m very comfortable in my own skin. I was very comfortable with the people that I worked with. I think I felt very rooted in who this character was and what his behaviors were.
It just felt natural because this is who he is, so I went with that. I didn’t really spend much time thinking about it, to be honest. I knew that this was the world that X lived in, and that was the world that I needed to live in. I needed to make it happen, you know, to be believable and authentic. The only way to do that is to root myself in the reality of the character and the existence of his world.
Also, with Darryl, especially, it felt extremely natural. We hit it off very quickly, and we are very close friends now.
CA: The film got a slew of awards like The LA Out Fest Grand Jury Award, the Milan International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, the Rhode Island Film Festival … and crappy films do not clean up at film festivals.
DM: No, they don’t, and we started at the Tribeca Film Festival. I think it’s just a love story. It’s an honest depiction of these characters. This was a shift to real characters with real problems; relationship problems, and I think it just had an honesty to it. I have a lot of straight friends that have seen it. They also found it to be very moving and honest.
CA: Well, let me add, I know you and Darryl were marketed as the two cuties of the film because both of you are not too hard to look at – but you know, I kind of dig the older dude who played Gregory. I was like I know it’s supposed to be all about Darryl and Derek, but mmm
DM: Lol Yes, Patrick. Yeah, yeah. I totally get it.
CA: So Derek, for those who haven’t seen the 2006 film, this next phase –the series, will maybe open up to a whole new audience. So, I don’t want you to give anything away, but where does Boy Culture the series pickup?
DM: It picks up with the characters ten years later. X and Andrew have moved to Los Angeles together. X has to go back into hustling after having not hustled for a long time, really to be able to help pay the bills because living in Los Angeles is expensive, and we got a house. You know, we started to try to create a life together.
When the series begins, Andrew and X are on the fray; they’re not together. They’re still very connected of course, and there’s a lot of sexual tension, but they are not together.
X is really in this place where he has to make more money because life has become more expensive, and so, he decides to go back into the world that he knows so well. But that world has changed dramatically from how X was in the film. It’s very relevant today, you know, here’s this character who ten years ago, worked by referral only and charged a lot of money.
Ten years later, he doesn’t really understand. Like, does he need to be on Rentboy, and what is Rentboy all about? It’s all about generating interest online now. And he also realizes, oh, I need to get back into incredible shape and maybe be open to going to a cosplay event. Lol, It’s really, very smart.
I don’t want to give too much away. I can’t, but it’s just, each episode deals with themes that are very relevant in 2020; you’ll know from episode one.
Darryl and I both feel like we were lucky to play these characters, and now again ten years later. Specifically, Darryl brings very masculine energy to it, deeply rooted in his voice and body. I think it’s much different than what he’s done on Noah’s Ark. I love what he did on Noah’s Ark, and I just saw the reunion show, but what he does in this is completely different. It shows his range.
CA: I agree, you guys both do a terrific job and are a great screen a couple. Thank you for spending time today speaking with me about this project.
DM. No, Thank you. I appreciate it.
CA: My pleasure. I have a final question for you. I don’t know if it was a big deal when the film came out, and people learned you were straight, but you experience any backlash or negative response from the gay audience?
No no, you know there might have been some people who probably felt that it could have been played by someone who was gay. But to be honest, I do not recall feeling any backlash. I think you should be the right person for the role regardless of your sexual preference and orientation. For the most part, I think people responded in a very positive way to me in this role because they did think I was gay. I was very flattered by that.
It means I did my job, right?
Stay tuned for more information about the series debut. In the meantime, check out the trailer from the 2006 film ‘Boy Culture’