Close Encounters of the Celebrity Kind...
The Film -- and the Interview -- That Got Away
12-06-06 KATM Exclusive
by Richard Knight, Jr.
The elusive History Boys director, Nicholas Hytner, the film's poster and Hytner on set with writer Allan Bennett and star Richard
Someday I should like to bring you a review of the film The History Boys and perhaps even an interview with its director Nicholas
Hytner. It wasn’t for lack of trying, that I can assure you. Read on for the rest of this sorry saga I lovingly title “My Non History With
The History Boys.”
I imagined the interview with Nicholas Hytner, the openly gay director of The History Boys would start off something like this:
WCT: Hi Nic. I’m not sure that I was ready for yet another coming of age film centered on an inspirational teacher but after all
those Tony awards and all the buzz about the gay characters, well, it just sounded really enticing.
NICHOLAS HYTNER: Well thank you, you know, that’s exactly the kind of anticipation I was hoping for. You know, you sound awfully
familiar to me, didn't we meet? You seem so insightful, so fascinating.
Actually, we did. It was about ten years ago at a party given by a good friend of mine. The friend, see, is an acquaintance of Mr.
Hytner’s and in subsequent years the friend has casually mentioned Hytner from time to time. But never in a name dropping way,
mind you. Around the time of the party Hytner’s film The Crucible had recently opened and when I was introduced to him we chatted
for a few moments about…no not Daniel Day Lewis or Winona Ryder…but Joan Allen. She was (and is) a member of Chicago’s
Steppenwolf Theatre company and that seemed a good start, my being a Chicagoan and Mr. Hytner an esteemed stage director,
“Miss Saigon,” included.
So we chatted for a bit and then both moved on. It was a fun party, noisy and crowded and I doubt if Hytner could pick me out of a
line-up ten minutes after it was over. But I certainly remembered (who doesn’t honestly recall each and every celebrity encounter –
no matter how minute?). Now Hytner may not exactly be a household name but for a cinema writer specializing in films and
filmmakers with a gay bent, his name is right up there with Ryan Murphy, Jamie Babbit, Thomas Bezucha, and several other gay film
directors male and female. There aren’t a ton of them.
So, when planning my end of the year calendar back in August (yes, I’m one of those anal queens – at least in this area), I noticed
that the film version of the multi-Tony award winning play The History Boys was slated for an early December release and that Hytner,
who’d directed the stage version, had done the movie, too. “Possible Nic Hytner Q&A?” I typed in for that week (which is this week –
December 8th to be exact). I assumed, given the gay character in the movie, the gay director, the independent status of the picture
(which usually spells a pretty good chance for access to director-writer-or star), this was a slam dunk.
But fate suggested otherwise.
First there was the screening. It was scheduled smack dab in the middle of my early November vacation. I emailed back the
publicist that bit of information, asked to be informed of subsequent screenings and mentioned my desire to speak with Mr. Hytner –
noting my close, personal ties of course – and left for my fall holiday. The publicist had immediately emailed me back that she
would inform me of the next screening and the possibility of an interview with Hytner. Nothing about my meeting Hytner at a party,
however which I thought would be the coup de grace if needed.
While on vacation my partner and I decided to take in a screening of The Queen – which he hadn’t seen and which I certainly didn’t
mind seeing again. A preview for The History Boys prefaced the movie and I whispered to Jim, “I’m seeing that when I get back and
probably talking to the director. He’s gay you know.” I also mentioned that he was a friend of our friend hoping to impress Jim as
always. Jim said, “Oh” in reply.
When we returned however, the next (and only) screening was scheduled for the Monday before the film’s opening – past my
deadline. And nothing about my proposed interview with Hytner came with the notice. I dialed the publicist and asked, “What gives?”
The film company, apparently, wanted me to see the picture before scheduling an interview with Mr. Hytner but with my early
deadline that left only two days for that to happen. And no screeners – even though I argued (I thought quite convincingly) that this
was a picture that would certainly be helped by the support of the GLBT community and that without seeing the movie or interviewing
Hytner I’d be left with only the possibility of a capsule mention in my weekly column.
“Are they aware that I’ve met Nic at a party?” I asked the publicist, brazenly tossing out Hytner’s first name to see if that would
make a difference. It didn’t – and though the publicist tried hard to make another screening and the interview happen (and I give
her credit) the time constraints proved insurmountable. But at least I’d be able to still do the capsule mention and see the film in
time to include a review here, I thought.
Monday night walking toward the theatre for the showing I noticed fire trucks parked out front but didn’t give them much thought.
Up in the theatre lobby, however, it was quickly explained that the place had been cleared due to “slightly elevated” carbon
monoxide levels in one of the theatres. Guess which one?
On the way out I walked past a trio of firemen huddled with the theatre manager talking in hushed tones and glanced at the poster
for The History Boys and noted the film’s tagline, “It’s just one bloody thing after another.”
“You’re telling me,” I thought to myself, “You’re telling me.”