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, many, theofficial podcast to Metropole magazine and home of short form interviews withyour favorite personalities from the lght world and be quick, Fun andinformative. It's met a source on the go out in cousins. Make like hello, hello, hello. This isMetrosideros Alexander Roger gets lead rider from metoosin Abbot, podcast erany time you see the gays on the big screen on TV, winning all the awards.You can think the pioneers of early screen writing who, as out of thecloset Hollywood industry members, were telling our stories and pave the wayfor all of us. Today we chat with screen writer, pauled Rudnick, one ofthose pioneers he's a nautilus playwright, Sas screen writer, whom TheNew York Times is called one of our pre eminent humorous. By the way his playshave been produced both on and off Broadway and around the world. He haswon an OBI pitic circle awards and the John Gaster play writing award he's aregular contributor to the New Yorker, and his articles in essays have alsoappeared in the New York Times. Esquire Vogie Ity, fair, its screen playsinclude in and out big favorite in and out a sister act. The screen edition ofJeffrey and, of course, the Adams, family movies, his young adult novelsand time gorgeous, and it's all your phone have been published by scholasticis appeared on. The today show real ti with bill, Mar Conan O'Brian, herprairie home companion and fresh air among many other programs he'scurrently writing the book for the Broadway Musical version of a devil,wheres Prada so excited during coved, H, Bo air coastal elites written by popdirected by j Roach Stern, but middler Dan Levy Esere, Sarah Polson and hishis latest novel is a romantic comedy entitled playing the Palace NowAvailable Online and that book stores it's a Gay Ronco with a prince and apopper kind of. Please welcome Paul Penick. It's so good to see you thankyou for having heart, I'm sorry. How are you I'm very well? Thank you. Ilove your whole gothic background by the well. By the way you know youappear like this, this innocent guy and then you have. I just lost the sound hello. Yep Yeah, I just lost, I justlost the sound for a moment. There are you there. Can you hear me? Yes, Oh sorry, the magic of a Internet ter, so over Covin there has been a lot ofLGOTA with some heavy kind of serious stuff. It's great and we're learningour stories, but you have told stories from the AIDS epidemic coming out beingan outcast, you name it all under this umbrella of comedy. Tell me how thepower of comedy plays a part in your life and I well. A comedy is essential book to mylife and I think just so many gay lives and it's a particular joy of thosemines as well, because I think all the more somber stories and the moredramatic tales of coming out and a prejudice are completely valid andabsolutely necessary. There's also such joy to being L GT. You know that Ithink it's one of the reasons that the...

...it's just such a delicious tribe. Youknow, and it's it's a celebration, so I wanted to sortof sneak into that camp and camp can sometimes be the operative word, butit's yeah. I wanted to really, I guess: I've always just soadmired Kay people for using their wits, sometimes during the peak of the AIDScrisis, when it was the only weapon they had in the political arena. It'sbecomes. You know, sort of rasor sharp, it's something I just adore about beinggay. So why not take o advantage? Nobody wanted to produce Jeffrey, whichwas your play turned in to a movie, because it's o was the aids of Idemeter in a very boog time. How did you finally get it produced? Well, Iwot lit. As a writer, I had a wonderful and deeply eccentric agent at the timenamed Helen Merrill, who was a German woman who had been in America for fortyyears and had only become more teutonic and she was a force to be reckoned withand when Jeffrey was turned down absolutely everywhere. She at her witsend personally marched the manuscript over a few blocks from her office tothe PA, which was this wonderful as tiny off of Broadway theater, run by agreat man named Karani and she told Kyle, I'm not leaving until you've readthis play and so kyle sat down because he had think he was scared of Helenread the play and said you know. I may regret this, but I want to do it and Iwas just so grateful. It changed my life and it was just an act of suchsort of courage and belief 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 a year,commercial run and being performed all over the world. So it was. There was a wonderful sense ofgratitude and vindication there, because the play had been so spurn.People theaters were terrified of it, especially because it o t the extremegay content. You know it wasn't apologetic and it wasn't. There was nota straight character. who was the guide for nervous audiences? It was just allon gate, so yeah. That was how how Jeffrey cameto be what kind of comedy inspired you as akid growing up. Oh, it was kind of everything from fromthe greates from Mosca Wild, no coward Bollier, you name it to Carol Brunetteto I love Lucy to you know the people who inspire metoday from you know: Trutina Fay to everybody else, who's out there. It's yeah! I think there are a lot of gay. II specifically gay comic resources. The Great English playwright, Joe Orton, isanother, but they were people who I just dreamedof. You know and dedicated myself too, and had to be very careful to avoidcopying so yeah. That was that was pretty much.My Pantheon in and out was a big mainstream success.It was the first time I saw as a youth to men, his screw instreaming Kevin Kline TomSellick smote. Everybody love that did you think that the gay script doorswere just going to be flown open because it was a success at what's kind of the aftermath of thesuccess of that film. For you, as a screen writer- well no I mean I was. I wasn't thatnaive. I didn't think. Oh now we're going to have thousands of mainstreamgage studio movies, but I knew that what in and out had to do, aside frombeing a good film was to prove the economics of gay subject matter,because that was often used as a sort of polite turned down for gay material.The studio bosses would say. Oh, we would love to do this, but it's toonice, it's not relatable. It won't make money. There are no out Kay stars andin and acted very well, so it proved no.

There is a huge audience across theboard for game material and I think in and at became part of a climate of ofgay creativity and all across all the arts. You know there was an explosion,certainly an independent gate film making, which I think is some senoverlook. There are gay film festivals all over over the world, showing workthat no might not reach. You know a thousand screens at the CINELOTE, oftenof wildly high quality, and I could befound online more and I think I don't know what will what what it will take to finally make for amore overall acceptance. We've had so many gay hits from roback mountain tothe Burg Gage to moonlight and each time it's seen as an anomaly as oh yeah.That was an exception to the rule and know there have been way too manyexceptions. Now I think the streaming services and even network televisionhas been far more welcoming to to queer story. So that's been a plus but yeah,there's still that sort of fear of audience prejudice, which I think it'sso much more advisable to give the audience a little more credit that ifnothing else they're interested in fresh stories and stories, they havenot seen a million times and they've been overall, extremely welcoming togay life, so yeah. So I think in an out played arole there, but I never kidded myself that oh it was going to a damn, wouldbreak Paul. Do you think we're more concernedwith putting out so much content that we sometimes don't hold our contentaccountable to be the best? In writing the best and acting were just so happyto have this kind of story telling out there do you think we should hold ourfilmmakers a little bit more accountable to what they're putting outthere? Well, no more than you'd hold anyone accountable. You know. I thinkthere is a truth that, given the the O, the product thatreaches the mainstream viewer every year, Ninety eight percent of it isgoing to be absolutely dreadful. That's a given gay straight, you name it andgay people have to be allowed to fail every bit as as much as straightfilmmakers. So I think and believe me, the gayaudience is not shy with its judgment. So I think if you ever been on thisthing, called the Internet. You've realized that, yes, there is a a a L Gbt jury out there. So yeah, I don't think the gay fail making or GayTheater or our gay novels need special favors or dispensations. I think allart works can use a little generosity and kindness, but on the other end no,I think yeah sort of take em, I think, take himout of case by case basis. I think that what is very welcome is when the gayaudience is at least curious, which I found they often are where they thinkno they're not going because you know they've been indoctrinated or they'resigned up for membership, but they are interested in seeing their livesdepicted. They have that genuine, you know yearning, and so so Ithink they at least tend to give game material a chance. You know, and thenthey start talking to their friends. So it's you know they're, not they don'twithhold playing the palace which I'm halfwaythrough my second reading, because it's such a joy, a ROM com, two gay men, onehappens to be a prince. What what inspired you to be like? You know itnow's the time for 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 urged readygay romantic comedy years ago. I wasn't sure where it would land if it was aplay or screen plight, but as soon as I got Carter's voice the main character,this guy who's, a party player in New York, lives in a fifth floor, walk upin Hell's kitchen with roommates. What...

I say is roommates are fabulous asroommates of Enon that that was when I found a way into thematerial, and it's steadily suddenly really started to flow. So but then I just got excited about aboutthe story and about the opportunity. Tea also depict a very powerful gayfigure like Prince Eger, the Crown Prince of England, who will at somepoint become the king of England, because I think often were used toseeing gay characters as more downtrodden or more discriminated against, and I thoughtnow I this as I have real influence and that's becoming increasingly possiblein the world. So I wanted to sort of lead with that, but yeah. I also, I think, after thelast four or now, five years with what we have all been through, Iwas so looking forward to an escape to an treat to the trier, quick equivalentof desert and that's what I hope playing the palace would become. Iremember during the lock down. The first thing I did at last fall wascoastal elite, which was a cry of pure desperate rage and dread right beforethe election, and it was very necessary and it was just what everyone I knewwas going through, but then I got to edit the galleys of playing the palacelater on in the pandemic, and that was such a relief and a pleasure that was asense of Oh okay. Happiness is possible somewhere, maybe it's only in a in a orthe in the pages of a romantic comedy, but it's out there. So so I thought thethe at the time was right. You know that, especially because royalty feverhas never been stronger with Makin and Harry and the rest of recondense, so Ithought Washin Carter and I your join them and I love it and that's the perfectword is a treat you know, especially during pride month.We get all of these emails and all these books and all of these moviesthat are coming out- and this was such a breath of fresh air- that when Istarted reading the very first few pages, my shoulders relaxed- I reallyjust eased into it and I couldn't put the book down because it was abeautiful treat and we talked before. But you really have your finger on thepoles of the slang. The social media what's happening in these young kidslives, which is very funny because, like a night out for you, is I hop withyour husband. How do you keep your finger on the pulse of what's happeningin such a real way? Well, that sort of its it from having younger friends fromjust being in the world from, of course, going online. Also, I think, especially in the city. Sometimescertain specifics can change in terms of language and fashion, but there's akind of eternal urge towards romance that I understood, and that applies to theyoungest and the oldest people across the board. Everybody has always wantedto fall in love and the idea of falling in love with a royal. The Cinderella.TROPE has also had enormous endurance in the culture, so that was easy toplug into something that was going on today. Also, I think from from my workin the theater when I'm around people who are struggling when I'm aroundpeople, who I remember for when I was younger, you know the jobs, you takethe side, hustles the desperation, the filthy apartments. You know, that'sthat's a given and that's something that I remember all too well and fromthe the younger folks who I've talked to that they. That was just whatthey're going through. I think one of the few advantages- well, not one ofthe few, 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 be youngand you're learning what it's like to be older. I think younger people. Iknow when I was young okay, I knew about me and my friends, but everythingelse was a little bit of guess work.

Now I've got a few more points ofreference, so so yeah. It was very pleased when people thought self thatthe book had a relevance to it and then it didn't feel you know out of place in some way sobut yeah. I think that I guess it's also. One of the advantages of onlinelife is that it does tend to connect everyone just keep everyone a littlemore up to date on everything and I think it informs it offers a lot moresocial history to younger people online and it offers a a muchmore broad window into everyone's lives for older people willing to maintaintheir curiosity. So that's that's what I've tried to do. You know it's the power of the Internet.I remember last year for pride, everything was digital, which meant youhad a major celebrity that was able to partake in a pride that some kid insome small town could also be a part of, and they could communicate. It was. Itwas a powerful pride and it was connecting people of all walks of life,all levels from celebrity status to somebody working at starbucks. You knowit was a great time of communication, which I hope we see in the future andfuture products so PA. I loved the STEPFORD WIVES Re boot, I loved it. Ididn't do so as well. What do you think happened and how doyou handle it when a big film that you worked on doesn't is not so wellreceived? They are called potato chips o and keep them coming. You know nobody ever sort of set out tocreate any form of fiasco, and would things go wrong as they did withsepper's wives? It's awful! You know that it's very jarring, it's veryupsetting. It takes a while to go away. On the other hand, that's a veryprivileged problem to have when you create a stumme that that's a mis fire,so you I have to keep reminding myself that that's another reason why I loveliving in New York. It you'll go right on the street and everyone has theirown lives. They care less about your particular moment of self pity, so that, with the with separate winesthat where I try to go back and pin point, you know where were the mistakesmade, especially by me, and that so that's helpful you trying to learn fromthese things, but sometimes that 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 oranywhere else for that matter knows what it's like to have a misstep or afailure, or a boom you'd, rather not, but sooner or later everyone's going toget one and often more than one. So you better learn to deal with it. Also.Anyone who works in the arts had better developed the toughest possible skin,because it's not an easy life you're going to spend an awful lot of timealone, you're going to receive, if you're very lucky, a certain amount ofsupport and a decent amount of prades, but you're also to become a target, andI think that's more true now than ever when there are far more people outthere firing at you, it was something that I was interested in with playingthe palace. The idea of a royal romance is a romance in the harshest possiblespotlight. You know when you watch Makin and Harry and you see what theygo through and how every move they make is is analyzed and dissected online. Ithought that's a an interesting challenge for a couple in love, so yeah,so it makes different wise put setreas in a bit of perspective. I thought,okay, I god willing had done better work before when afterwards we, I guess,by a die of my other rule in life. One of the only ones always make freshmistakes, don't repeat the same ones. You know so that that's maybe thatAmili like that words to live by...

...you, know some of the magic that youput on the screen that I subscribe to and I'm a huge fan is the magic thatyou made with the Adams family movies it nobody can duplicate what happenedin those films from the acting to the writing to the perfect direction. What did you learn most from theCharles Adams characters? Oh I wasn't to much learning. I was just sograteful because I was always a huge fan of Charles Adams original cartoonswhich were so brilliant. I mean all of that is owed so much to him, but also with that cast with roundJulia and Jelchs ton and Christina Richin, crison and and the the heavenlyJoe cusack it's very hard to go wrong. You know so I love one of the. Myfavorite part of those movies was that they were big budget studio films thatwere not expected to be wholesome. You could actually kill people, you couldchuse babies off the proof. You know you can earn Palot and it was. It wasall not just accepted, but cheered. So it was this amazing opportunity, so Iwas just I was 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 New York: Studioapartment, I'd, be typing, Gomito, Mor titia and you're, a decaying Frenchrestaurant and then, a year later I was on a sound stage in Los Angeles andsuddenly the brilliant production designer had created this stunning,decaying French restaurant people with hundreds of extras and these gorgeousmovie stars- and I just was a little terrified. I thought to Myself: Ohshould we maybe have spent this money on college scholarships and stead? I got over that in pulse, but it reallythat was sort of the lesson. There was okay, the hot, be careful what you wishfor what you write but be ready. You know so that, and the Adam family also was a greatlesson and style that could only really be applied to that material. But it waswhy I loved writing the Seeta, because I had learned a lot of the rules of thefamily and I especially had learned to cherish Christina Riche's work asWednesday. I think she was such an audience favorite that I could give hera lot more to do the second time out, so it was at a great benefit to havehad the first film perform. Well, what I would I loked about the films is, youknow I was this Chubby Latino Gay kid who didn't know I was gay and it reallymade the outcast and the misfits the heroes. They were the heroes and theywere the beautiful parts of those films and that's what I really really was aattracted to okay Paul. The gaze would kill me if Ididn't ask about writing the book for the Devil Wares product musical, we'reall freaking out, we're all excited. What changes can we expect to the state show? Well, I am Cowriting the book with Kate weatherhead is terrific writer and Elt John isdoing the score and Chanit is doing the lyric. So it's a great group. Therewill be an out of town tri out in Chicago next summer, so I then do tothe pandemic and the nature of the beast it's taken a while, but I thinkthat the the team wants to very much pay tribute to a beloved movie andLauren Witberg's, terrific beselli novel that the film was based on, butalso introduce more current elements because there's been such a c change inthe world of magazine, publind, the world of fashion in terms of contentand inclusion and diversity, and all that needs very much to be reflected inany newer, newer version of the devil worth product. So it's been a process,you know, and there and a sort of a learning curve where you think, okay,how do we make sure that the audience still recognizes this story andwelcomes these beloved characters, but...

...is surprised at a few changes that havebeen made so so we'll all have to wait and see so excited so excited? What do you want to write next, oh? Well, there I got a couple ofthings in the works. I'm way too superstitious to ever talk about them,because I always I will drive myself mad that way, but but there was about,there was a TV project coming up. I have a new play as well called guiltypleasure that will that was about to be produced by the Lahi Play House inCalifornia right I of the best theaters in southern California, in California.If you are local or even fly in Laeo playhouse does some really powerfulwork and you end up seeing the productions on Broadway of eventuallyOh yeah and it was going to and it's got to be directed by Chris Ashley, whoruns that theater and has been my longtime collaborator. So we needed topostpone it because of the pandemic, but sometimes I think in the comingyear it will return there. So I can't wait to work at the hole yeah yeah, Ilove I'll, be there opening my front rowall right this one's for socialmedia this month. Obviously we are celebrating pride. You are in our prideissue of Metro Stoure. What moment from your career is a stand out pridefulmoment for you? Oh my God. There have been so many, Iremember. One sort of delicious moment was, after Jeffrey, opened off BroadwayAnne. I should mention that all the actors in New York had been ferociouslywarned away from even audition for the play their agents and managers, some ofwhom were gave themselves, would say: No, no, you can't you can't go anywherenear this play. Your career will be over, and so I was so grateful for thisextraordinary cast, who also just had some guns and showed up and weremagnificent, and then we had a float in the PRI parade that year and it wasjust heavily. There were pictures of John my partner, where he also just metat them at that Oh particular point in time, so it was yeah, it was. It was abig year for me and we went together ever since. Where were you know in thestreet, cheering for there's, Brian, bad and John Michael Higgins, and TomNewin and Harry and Harris on board the Jeffrey Float? You know, and it wasenough. People in the gate community had seen the play that they were. Youknow delighted to see the see that particular group ball and Harriet, who,sadly, is not gay, but she was a major heart throw out for the women'scommunity, so she dealt with that quite quite elegantly, but yeah that that day was with yeah really special, because Ijust thought. Okay, this is uniting my community, my chosen family with thepeople from hidare from this play that I've written and this incredible guythat I just met so yeah that I started New York and its finest. What a magictime all right. So obviously there has to be a biot made about you who wouldplay you in the film. Oh, my Lord, it would take a lot of prosthetics,whoever e by puppets or animation. I will saythat I'm playing the palace I got really lucky because the heavenlyMichael Ury who people will know for ugly Betty from Viron seller ofBroadway, he recorded the Audio Book and did just a magnificent job. I meanhe said Jas actor, so I ain that's. Actually, when you were asking aboutthe change in the changes in the in theentertainment industry. That's been a a an amazing and such a delightful development, the amount of outgameactors that Hollywood can no longer say we have no gay leaving men ortranslating. Ladies, you know, you've got it. o You've got sat, Quinto Nail,Patrick Harris Michael Lowry, every Unio givens to choose from, and it'sand they're all having very successful careers. So it's it's proved a lot ofthe naysays and the superstitions wrong, and so so I would be habit of any ofthose people in the polreen story. I...

...love it tell our audience where youwant them to find you and follow you. They can find me on twitter at PaulRight again. Why I'M ON FACE book? I'm also. I have a website Paul Resonoplaying the palace has a has a lot of postings on INSARA. So take your pick and read the book. It's such a fun readit's a perfect for summer. It's a perfect on the plane. You know on thetrain next to the pool just at home quite night just read the book, it's sodelightful wall. I could literally talk to you for hours and hours about theindustry and your career. Thank you so much for being a part of our prideissue. I wish you a very happy pride. Oh that's! That's so mutual! Thank youagainst so much for having me for including me in this issue. It's youknow, I'm a long time. Metrostyle an honor all right go, have a good rest of theday, have fun an I hop with your husband, and we will see you so verygood thanks get, but that has been my chat with Paul Rudnickagain, you can read my indepindent him in our pride issue on New StandardCross, the nation or Metro source and that's another episode of Metro SourceMinis. I'm your host to Alexander Rodrigez, find me on Instar atAlexander, is on air until next time stay true, and do you Bo that has been another metoosin blackshare, subscribe on your favorite podcast player and check out the latestissue of Metrofon magazine on new stands or online at not tesor com.Follow us on face book Instar, that a sort and on twittered, let's a coursethat until next time, a.

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