Screenwriter & Novelist Paul Rudnick

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Today, anytime you see someone from the gay community on the big screen, on TV, winning all the awards, you can thank the pioneers of early screenwriting who, as out of the closet Hollywood industry members, paved the way with their early work telling our stories in mainstream film. On this episode, we chat with screenwriter Paul Rudnick, one of those pioneers…

Paul Rudnick is a novelist, playwright, essayist and screenwriter, whom the New York Times has called, “one of our pre-eminent humorists.” His plays have been produced both on and off Broadway and around the world, He has won an Obie Award, two Outer Critics Circle Awards and the John Gassner Playwrighting Award, He’s a regular contributor to The New Yorker and his articles and essays have also appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, Vogue and Vanity Fair. Paul’s screenplays include IN & OUT, SISTER ACT, the screen adaptation of JEFFREY, and ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES. His Young Adult novels, entitled GORGEOUS and IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT, have been published by Scholastic. Mr. Rudnick has appeared on the Today show, Real Time with Bill Maher, Conan O’Brien, A Prairie Home Companion, and Fresh Air, among other programs. Mr. Rudnick is currently writing the book for the Broadway musical adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada, with lyrics by Shaina Taub and music by Elton John. During COVID, HBO aired Coastal Elites, written by Mr. Rudnick, directed by Jay Roach, and starring Bette Midler, Dan Levy, Issa Rae,& Sarah Paulson. His new novel, a romantic comedy entitled Playing The Palace, is now available online and at bookstores.

We chatted with Paul about the entertainment industry during the AIDS epidemic, the magic of the Addams Family characters, how to deal with a Hollywood bomb, his work on The Devil Wears Prada musical, writing for the younger gay generation, the beauty of IHOP, love and dating, and his moment of Pride…with host Alexander Rodriguez. 

This is metro source mini, theofficial podcast to Metro source magazine and home of short form interviews with your favoritepersonalities from the lgbtq world and beyond. Quick, Fun and informative. It'smetro source on the go, out in proud since one thousand nine hundred andninety. Hello, hello, hello, this is metro source mini's I'm yourhost, Alexander Rodriguez, lead writer from Metro source and avid podcaster. Anytimeyou see the gays on the big screen on TV winning all they awards,you can think the pioneers of early screenwriting who, as out of the closetHollywood industry members, were telling our stories and paved the way for all ofus. Today we chat with screenwriter Paul Rudnick, one of those pioneers.He's a novelist, playwright, says, screenwriter whom the New York Times iscalled one of our pre eminent humorous by the way, his plays have beenproduced both on and off Broadway and around the world. He is one anobie critic, circle awards and the John Gassner playwriting award. He's a regularcontributor to the New Yorker and his articles and essays have also appeared in theNew York Times, esquire, Vogue Vanity Fair. His screenplays include in andout big favorite, in and out Sister Act, the screen adaptation of Jeffreyand, of course, the Adams family movies. His young adult novels intime, gorgeous and it's all your fault have been published by scholastic. Hehas appeared on the today show real time with Bill Mart Conan O'Brien, prairiehome companion and fresh air, among many other programs. He's currently writing thebook for the Broadway musical version of a double wears product. So excited duringCOVID HBO are Coastal Elites, written by Paul, directed by Jay Roach,starring but middler Dan Levy, is Ray, Sarah Paulson and his his latest novelis a romantic comedy entitled playing the Palace, now available online and thatbook stores. It's a gay Rom Cohn with a Prince and a popper kindof please welcome, Paul Cut Nick. So good to see you. Thankyou for having mark. I'm sorry, how are you? I'm very well. Thank you. I love your whole gothic background. By the well,by the way, you know you appear like this, this innocent guy,and then you, you have I just thought the sound. Hello, Yep, yeah, I just lost I just lost the sound for a moment.there. Are you there? Can you hear me? Yes, Oh,sorry, the magic of Internet there. So over covid there has been alot of lgbtq content with some heavy, kind of serious stuff. It's greatand we're learning our stories, but you have told stories from the AIDS epidemic, coming out, being an outcast, you name it all under this umbrellaof comedy. Tell me how the power of comedy plays a part in yourlife. And well, a comedy is essential both to my life and,I think, just so many gay lives, and it's a particular joy of thoselives as well, because I think while the more somber stories and themore traumatic tales of coming out in a prejudice are completely valid and absolutely necessary, there's also such joy to being lgbtq.

You know that. I think it'sone of the reasons that the I's just such a delicious tribe, youknow, and it's it's a celebration. So I wanted to sort of sneakinto that camp, and camps can sometimes be the operative word, but it'syeah, I wanted to really. I guess I've always just so admired gaypeople for using their whips, sometimes during the peak of the AIDS crisis,when it was the only weapon they had in the political arena. It's becomes, you know, should the razor sharp. It's something I just adore about beinggay, so why not take full advantage? Nobody wanted to produce Jeffrey, which was your play, turned into a movie, because it's it wasthe aids of a derector in a varied time. How did you finally getit produced? Well, I lacked the said as a writer. I hadwonderful and deeply eccentric agent at the time named Helen Meryl, who was Germanwoman who had been in America for forty years and had only become more teutonic, and she was a force to be reckoned with. And when Jeffrey wasturned down absolutely everywhere, she at her wits end. Personally March the manuscriptover a few blocks from her office to the WPA, which was this wonderful, if tiny, off of Broadway theater run by a great man named KyleRennick, and she told Kyle, I'm not leaving until you've read this play. And so kyle sat down because he had think he was scared of Helen, read the play and said, you know, I may regret this,but I want to do it, and I was just so grateful. Itchanged my life and it was just an act of such sort of courage andbelief on his part. And it was supposed to run for I think,maybe two weeks at that and it ended up selling out, going for ayear commercial run and being performed all over the world. So it was therewas a wonderful sense of gratitude and vindication there because the play had been sospurn people theaters were terrified at it, especially because of the extreme gay content. You know, it wasn't apologetic and it wasn't there was not a straightcharacter who was the guide for nervous audiences. It was just all on gay.So yet that was how Jeffrey came to be. What kind of comedyinspired you as a kid growing up? Oh, it was kind of everything, from from the greats, from Moscar Wild Nol Coward Moliere, you nameit, to Carol Burnett, to I love Lucy, to you know,the people who expire me today from you know trump, Tina fey. Toeverybody else who's out there, it's yeah, I think they're there. A lotof gay prixis, specifically gay comic resources. The Great English playwright JoeOrton is another. But they were people who I just dreamed of, youknow, and dedicated myself to and had to be very careful to avoid copying. So yeah, that was that was pretty much my my pantheon. Inand out was a big mainstream success. It was the first time I saw, as a youth, two men kiss screw mainstream hit Kevin Kleind and TomSelex mooching. Everybody love that. Did you think that the gay script doorswere just going to be flown open because it was a success? What?What's kind of the aftermath of the success of that film for You as ascreenwriter? Well, no, I mean I was I wasn't that naive.I didn't think, Oh, now we're going to have thousands of mainstream gaystudio movies, but I knew that what in and out had to do,aside from being a good film, was to prove the economics of gay subjectmatter, because that was often used as a sort of polite turned down forgay material. The studio bosses would say, Oh, we would love to dothis, but it's too niche, it's not relatable, it won't makemoney, there are no out gay stars.

And in and acted very well.So it proved nope, there is a huge audience across the board forgay material and I think in and APP became part of a climate of ofgay creativity and all across all the arts. You know, there was an explosion, certainly, and independent gay filmmaking, which I think is substance overlook.There are gay film festivals all over over the world showing work that no, might not reach, you know, a thousand screens at the cineplex,but is often of wildly high quality. And I could be found online moreand I think I don't know what will what, what it will take tofinally make for a more overall acceptance. We've had so many gay hits,from Roquack Mountain to the bird gage to moonlight, and each time it's seenas an anomaly, as Oh, yeah, that was an exception to the rule, and know there have been way too many exceptions. Now I thinkthe streaming services and even network television has been far more welcoming to to queerstory. So that's been a plus. But yeah, there's still that sortof fear of audience prejudice, which I think it's so much more advisable togive the audience a little more credit that, if nothing else, they're interested infresh stories and stories they have not seen a million times and they've beenoverall, extremely welcoming to gay lives. So yeah, so I think inand out played a role there, but I never kided myself that Oh,it was going to a day and would break. Paul, do you thinkwe're more concerned with putting out so much content that we sometimes don't hold ourcontent accountable? To be the best in writing, the best in acting,were just so happy to have this kind of storytelling out there. Do youthink we should hold our filmmakers a little bit more accountable to what they're puttingout there? Well, no, more that you'd hold anyone accountable. Youknow, I think there is a truth that, given the the the copthe product that reaches the mainstream viewer every year, Ninety eight percent of itis going to be absolutely dreadful. That's a given. Gay, straight,you name it, and gay people have to be allowed to fail every bitas as much as as straight filmmakers. So I think, and believe me, the gay audience is not shy with its judgment. So I think we'renot. You know, if you've ever been on this then called the Internet, you've realized yes, there is a a lgbtq jewelry out there. Soyeah, I don't think the gay filmmaking or gay theater or gay novels needspecial favor. So dispensations. I think all artworks can use a little generosityand kindness. But on the other hand, no, I think yeah, sortof take a I think take amount of case by case basis. Ithink that what is very welcome is when the gay audience is at least curious, which I found they often are, where they know they're not going because, you know, they've been indoctrinated or they're signed up for membership, butthey are interested in seeing their lives depict it. They have that genuine,you know, yearning, and so so I think they at least tend togive gay material a chance, you know, and then they start talking to theirfriends. So it's, you know, they're they're not. They don't withholdplaying the palace, which I'm halfway through my second reading because it's sucha joy, a rom calm to gay men. One happens to be aprince. What what inspired you to be like you know, now's the timefor me to put this book out here. What was that inspiration? Well,it's funny. I was thinking about the material and I had this urgeready gay romantic comedy years ago. I wasn't you aware it would land ifit was a play screen pipe. But as soon as I got Carter's voice, the main care character, this guy who's a party planner in New York, lives in a fifth floor walk up and Hell's kitchen with roommates. WhenI say roommates, are fabulous bracts roommates...

...often on that. That was whenI found a way into the material and it's studly suddenly really started to flow. So so then I just got excited about about the story and about theopportunity to also depict a very powerful gay figure like Prince Edgar, the CrownPrince of England, who will at some point become the king of England,because I think often we're used to seeing gay characters as more downtrodden or morediscriminated against, and I thought none of this was a guy real influence andthat's becoming increasingly possible in the world. So I wanted to sort of leadwith that. But yeah, I also I think after the last four ornow five years, with what we have all been through, I was solooking forward to an escape, to a treat to the treat very quick equivalentof dessert, and that's what I hope playing the palace would become. Iremember during the lockdown, the first thing I did at last fall was coastalelite, which was a cry, a pure desperate rage, and read rightbefore the election and it was very necessary and it was just what everyone Iknew was going through. But then I got to edit the galleys of playingthe palace later on in the pandemic and and that was such a relief anda pleasure. There was a sense of Oh, okay, happiness is possiblesomewhere. Maybe it's only in a work of the in the pages of aromantic comedy, but it's out there. So so I felt the tat thetime was right. You know that, especially because royalty fever has never beenstronger. With make it and Harry and the rest of rector. It's theclan. So I thought, why shouldn't Carter and it your join them?And I love it, and that's the perfect word. Is a treat.You know, especially during pride month, we get all of these emails andall these books and all of these movies that are coming out, and thiswas such a breath of fresh air that when I started reading the very firstfew pages, my shoulders relaxed. I really just eased into it and Icouldn't put the book down because it was a beautiful treat. And we talkedbefore, but you really have your finger on the pulse of the Slang,the social media, what's happening in these young kids lives, which is veryfunny because like a night out for you is, I hop with your husband. How do you keep your finger on the pulse of what's happening in sucha real way? Well, that's sort of it's from having younger friends,from just being in the world, from, of course, going online also,I think, especially in the city, sometimes certain specifics can change in termsof language and fashion, but there's a kind of eternal urge towards romancethat I understood and that applies to the youngest and the oldest people across theboards. Everybody has always wanted to fall in love and the idea falling inlove with a royal, the Cinderella Trope, has also had enormous endurance in theculture. So that was easy to plug into something that was going ontoday. Also, I think, from from my work in the theater,when I'm around people who are struggling, when I'm around people who I rememberfrom when I was younger. You know, the jobs you take, the sideHustles, the desperation, the filthy apartments. You know that's that's agiven and that's something that I remember all too well and from the the theyounger folks who I've talked to that they that's what, just what they're goingthrough. I think one of the few advantages, well not one of thefew, but among the advantages, of getting older is that you've got asort of larger point of view. You remember what it was like to beyoung and you're learning what it's like to be older. I think younger peopleI know. When I was young, okay, I knew about me andmy friends, but everything else was a...

...little bit of guesswork. Now I'vegot a few more points of reference. So so yeah, I was verypleased when people thought felt that the book had a relevance to it and thatit didn't feel, you know, out of place in some way. Sobut yeah, I think that. I guess it's also one of the advantagesof online life is that it does tend to connect everyone. Yes, keepeveryone a little more up to date on everything, and I think it formsit offers a lot more social history to younger people online and it offers amuch more broad window into everyone's lives for older people willing to maintain their curiosity. So that's that's what I've tried to do. You know, it's thepower of the Internet. I remember last year for pride, everything was digital, which meant you had a major celebrity that was able to partake in apride that some kid in some small town could also be a part of andthey could communicate. It was it was a powerful pride and it was connectingpeople of all walks of life, all levels, from celebrity status to somebodyworking at starbucks. You know, it was a great time of communication,which I hope we see in the future and future products. So, Paul, I loved the Stepford wives reboot. I loved it I didn't do sothe well, what do you think happened and how do you handle it whena big film that you worked on doesn't is not so well received? Theyare called potato chips, you know, Fars and keep them coming, youknow. It's nobody ever sort of sets out to create any form of fiascoand with things go wrong as they did with Stepford wives, it's awful.You know that. It's very jarring, it's very upsetting. It takes awhile to go away. On the other hand, that's a very privileged problemto have when you create a studio movie, that that's a misfire. So youI had to keep reminding myself that. That's another reason why I love livingin New York is you'll go out on the street and everyone has theirown lives that they could care less about your particular moment of self pity.So that with with separate wives, that where I try to go back inand pinpoint, you know, where were the mistakes made, especially by me, and that's so that's helpful. You try to learn from these things,but sometimes back could be a little bit challenging as well. But yeah,it's it's tough. You know. I think anyone who works in the arts, or anywhere else for that matter, knows what it's like to have amisstep or a failure or a bomb. You'd rather not, but sooner orlater every what's going to get one, and often more than one, soyou better learn to deal with it. Also, I anyone who works inthe arts had better develop the toughest possible skin, because it's not an easylife. You're going to spend it awful lot of time alone. You're goingto receive, if you're very lucky, a certain amount of support and adecent amount of praise, but you're also going to become a target, andI think that's more true now than ever, when there are far mohere people outthere firing at you. It was something that I was interested in withplaying the palace. The idea of a royal romance is a romance in theharshest possible spotlight. You know, when you watch meg it and Harry andyou see what they go through and how every move they make is is analyzedand dissected online. I thought that said, an interesting challenge for a couple inlove. So yeah, so it makes Stepford wives put Stepford waves ata bit of perspective. I thought, okay, I got willing. Haddone better work before, wouldn't afterwards. were, I guess, by athe of my other rule in life, one of the only ones, alwaysmake fresh mistakes. Don't repeat the same ones. You know. So thatthat's maybe that's a mean low. I like that words to live by.You know, some of the magic that...

...you put on the screen that Isubscribe to, and I'm a huge fan, is the magic that you made withthe Adams family movies. It nobody can duplicate what happened in those films, from the acting to to the writing to the perfect direction. What didyou learn most from the Charles Adams characters? Oh, I wasn't too much learning. I'd be just so grateful because I was always a huge fan ofCharles Adams original cartoons, which were so brilliant. I mean all of thatis is sowed so much to him, but also with that cast, withRold Julia and Angelica used it and Christina Reachi and Chris ID and the theheavenly Joe Cusack, it's very hard to go wrong, you know. SoI love one of the my favorite part of those movies was that they werebig budget studio films that were not expected to be wholesome. You could actuallykill people, you could toss babies off the roof. You know, yougot learned me for a lot and it was it was all not just acceptedbut cheered. So it was this amazing opportunity. So I was just Iwas so grateful, and it was. It was one of the first moments, though, in my career when I remember I'd be sitting in my NewYork Studio apartment and be typing Gomes and more Tisha and here a decaying Frenchrestaurant. And then a year later I was on a sound stage in LosAngeles and suddenly the brilliant production designer had created this stunning decaying French restaurant,people with hundreds of extras and these gorgeous movie stars and I just was alittle terrified. I thought to myself, Oh, should we maybe have spentthis money on college scholarships instead? That I got over that in Bulse,but it really that was sort of the lesson. There was. Okay,be that, be careful what you wish for, what you write, butbe ready, you know. So that and the addams family also. Itwas a great lesson in style that could only really be applied to that material. But it was why I love writing the sequel, because I had learneda lot of the rules of the family and I specially had learned to cherishChristina Ricci's work as Wednesday I think she was such an audience favorite that Icould give her a lot more to do the second time out. So itwas at a great benefit to have had the first film perform well. WhatI would I looked about the films. As you know, I was thisChubby Latino Gay kid who didn't know I was gay, and it really madethe outcast and the misfits the heroes. They were the heroes and they werethe beautiful parts of those films and that's what I really really was a attractedto. Okay, Paul, the gays would kill me if I didn't askabout writing the book for the double wares product musical. We're all freaking out, we're all excited. What changes can we expect to the stage show?Well, I am Co writing the book with Kate weatherheads terrific writer, andElton John is doing the score and chain it Toub is doing the lyrics.So it's a great group. There will be an out offtown tryout in Chicagonext summer. So I think, do to the pandemic and the nature ofthe beast, it's taken a while, but I think that the the teamwants to very much pay tribute to a beloved movie and Lauren Weisberger's terrific bestselling novel that the film was based on, but also introduce more current elements,because there's been such a sea change in the world of magazine publishers,in the world of fashion in terms of content and inclusion and diversity and allthat needs very much to be reflected in any newer, newer version of thedevil worse product. So it's been a process, you know, and therea a sort of a learning curve where you think, okay, how dowe make sure that the audience still recognizes this story and welcomes these beloved charactersbut is surprised at a few changes that...

...have been made? So so we'llall have to wait and see. So excited, so excited. What doyou want to write next? Oh, well, there I've got a coupleof things in the works. I wait too superstitious to ever talk about thatbecause I do I will drive myself mad that way. But but there's about. There's a TV project coming up. I have a new play as wellcalled guilty pleasure. That will that was about to be produced by the Lahayaplayhouse in California right it's one of the best theaters in southern California. InCalifornia, if you are local or even fly in, loya playhouse does somereally powerful work and you end up seeing the productions on Broadway of eventually.Oh yeah, and it's going to at it's going to be directed by ChrisAshley, who runs that theater and has been my longtime collaborator. So weneeded to postpone it because of the pandemic, but sometimes I think in the comingyear it will return there. So I can't wait to work at theOh yeah, I love I'll be there opening night, front row. Allright, this one's for social media. This month, obviously we are celebratingpride. You are in our pride issue of Metro stores. What moment fromyour career is a standout prideful moment for you? Oh my God, they'vebeen so many. I remember one sort of delicious moment was was after Jeffreyopened off Broadway. And I should mention that all the actors in New Yorkhad been ferociously warned away from even auditioning for the play. Their agents andmanagers, some of whom were gay themselves, would say no, no, youcan't, you can't go anywhere near this play, your career will beover. And so I was so grateful for this stranginary cast who also justhad some guts and showed up and we're magnificent. And then we had afloat in the privade that year and it was just heavily there pictures of John, my partner, who I also just met, at them at that Ohpecular point in time. So it was yeah, because it was a bigyear for me and we went together. Ever since we're we're, you know, in the street cheering for there's Brian Bad and John Michael Higgins and Tomyou would and Harriet Harris on board the Jeffrey float, you know, andit was enough people in the gay community had seen the play that they were, you know, delighted to see the see that particular group of people andHarriet, who sadly is not gay but she was a major heartthrough for thewomen's community. So she dealt with that quite quite elegantly. But yeah,that that day was with yeah, really special because I just thought, okay, this is uniting my community, my chosen family, with the people fromwhoi door, from this play that I've written and this incredible guy that Ijust met. So, yeah, that's sort of New York at its finest. What a magic time, right. So, obviously there has to bea biopic made about you. Who would play you in the film? Ohmy Lord, it would take a lot of prosthetics. Whoever better done bypuppets or animation? I will I will say that I'm playing the palace.I got really lucky because the heavenly Michael Jury, who people will know fromugly Betty, from Byron Seller off Broadway. He recorded the audiobook and did justa magnificent job. I mean he's such a bat, was class actor. So, and that's actually when you were asking about the change in thechanges in the in the entertainment industry. That's been a an amazing and sucha delightful development, the amount of out gay actors that Hollywood can no longersay we have no gay leading men or translating ladies. You know, you'vegot a close you've got Zach Quinto, Neil Patrick, Harris, Michael Jury, every unit, Sokevins to choose from and it's and they're all having verysuccessful careers. So it's it's proved a lot of the the naysayers and thesuperstitions wrong, and so so I would be having if any of those peoplein the Paul read next story. I...

...love it. Tell our audience whereyou want them to find you and follow you. They could find me ontwitter at Paul Rednick and why I'm on facebook. I'm also I have awebsite, Paul redneckcom. Playing the palace has a has a lot of postingson instagram. So so take your pick and read the book. It's sucha fun read. It's a perfect for summer. It's a perfect on theplane, you know, on the train, next to the pool, just athome quiet night. Just read the book. It's so delightful. Paul, I could literally talk to you for hours and hours about the industry andyour career. Thank you so much for being a part of our pride issue. I wish you a very happy pride. Oh that's that's so mutual. Thankyou again so much for having me, for including me in this issue.It's you know, I'm a longtime metro source fans, so it's alwaysan honor. All right, go have a good rest of the day,have fun at eyehop with your husband and we will see you suit very good. Thanks again. By that has been my chat with Paul Rudnick. Again. You can read my indepth interview with him in our pride issue on newstands across the nation or Metro sourcecom. And that's another episode of Metro SourceMinis. I'm your host, Alexander Rodriguez. Find me on Instagram at Alexander ison air. Until next time, stay true and do Yu Boo.That has been another metro source mini like share, subscribe on your favorite podcastplayer and check out the latest issue of Metro source magazine on newstands or onlineat Metro sportscom. Follow us on Facebook, instagram at natural source and on twitterat Metro course man. Until next time, thanks,.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (44)