Laurie Lynd, director of Breakfast With Scot. (Mongrel Media)
Breakfast With Scot has a sitcom sweet premise with a twist: a semi-closeted gay couple inherits a precocious little boy who seems gayer than they do. Director Laurie Lynd is unabashed about making a family movie that brings the margin to the mainstream. To help, he drafted Tom Cavanagh — that guy from Ed — to play the lead: a former Toronto Maple Leaf who’s not exactly in touch with his inner gay man. Lynd talked to CBCNews.ca from his home in Toronto.
Q: It’s rare to see an actual NHL logo in a movie, but the main character is a gay former Leaf, and often he’s head to toe in Leaf paraphernalia. How did you get the league's corporate approval?
A: It’s the first time any professional sports league has allowed their logo to be used in a gay themed film. My producer, Paul Brown, approached the NHL in 2006 and we were just so floored when they said yes, because apparently they get dozens of scripts per week. For example, Bon Cop, Bad Cop didn’t get permission, so we never thought we’d get it, and we were thrilled. I thought it was a big deal but I didn’t realize just how big it was until the Toronto Star broke the story in November of last fall, and it triggered articles in the New York Times, The L.A. Times, Sports Illustrated. It’s been a breakthrough decision, and the NHL has been really low-key about it. They just say they liked the script, and thought it was a family comedy and they wanted to support it. Makes me proud to be a Canadian.
Q: We’re beginning to see depictions of effeminate boys and masculine girls, on television, in Ugly Betty and The Riches, but not so much on film. Were you interested in breaking that barrier?
A: For me, the movie is very much about self-acceptance, and that’s a universal thing, but it’s also a celebration of the sissy. I was a sissy when I was a kid, and I was called that but I’ve never seen a kid like I was depicted in a film. Even in C.R.A.Z.Y., a film I loved, it’s a much straighter gay kid. I was delighted to bring a character like Scot to life, this kid who loves musicals and feather boas. Interestingly, that side of gay life is underrepresented these days. A lot of the gay culture today is about being macho. We all wanted [Scot] to be pre-sexuality, though, because once you get into sexuality it gets more complicated. I think kids should go to this movie. It’s a comedy for families about two gay guys who are changed by a gay kid. In the States, it would be two gay guys changed by a thuggish straight kid.
Q: Will some people find it too gentle, too much of a pander to a straight audience?
A: Of course, I worried: How will the gay community react? Will they say it’s pulling its punches by not having more explicit scenes between the couple? But it would be equally out of place in a heterosexual family comedy to have anything more explicit. Part of the journey of the character Tom Cavanagh plays is to reach a point where he can be more comfortable with his partner in public. I actually think this film is quite subversive because it’s a mainstream family film that’s really about a gay man having a second coming out. It’s a comedy about internalized homophobia, and that’s a very nuanced point. As a gay man, I think coming out is a lifelong journey. There are so many stages to it.
Q: How did it test with audiences?
A: Before we locked the picture, we played it at a cinema in Mississauga. It was a weird event. We had technical glitches, and the audience had to wait, and they were grumpy when they got in there, but they loved it. And that was a very average, suburban audience. They laughed, commented on how touching it is. That’s great. I want it to get out in the world to the broadest audience possible.
Q: When you’re working with a straight actor playing gay, are there certain clichés you need to overturn? What was his comfort level?
A: I’ve enjoyed Tom as a comedian. He’s so warm and I wanted the character of Eric to be really likeable. He’s also a wonderful dramatic actor, it’s a tour de force for him. And he was completely comfortable playing a gay character. The only thing was, he wanted to change the name of the character to Eric because the character was originally named Ed, and he was famous for that TV series called Ed. He didn’t want it to be: “Ed Turns Gay.”
Breakfast With Scot screens at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 9 and 11.
Katrina Onstad writes about arts for CBCNews.ca.
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