Screenwriter & Novelist Paul Rudnick


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, the official podcast to Metro source magazine and home of short form interviews with your favorite personalities from the lgbtq world and beyond. Quick, Fun and informative. It's metro source on the go, out in proud since one thousand nine hundred and ninety. Hello, hello, hello, this is metro source mini's I'm your host, Alexander Rodriguez, lead writer from Metro source and avid podcaster. Anytime you 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 closet Hollywood industry members, were telling our stories and paved the way for all of us. Today we chat with screenwriter Paul Rudnick, one of those pioneers. He's a novelist, playwright, says, screenwriter whom the New York Times is called one of our pre eminent humorous by the way, his plays have been produced both on and off Broadway and around the world. He is one an obie critic, circle awards and the John Gassner playwriting 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 Vanity Fair. His screenplays include in and out big favorite, in and out Sister Act, the screen adaptation of Jeffrey and, of course, the Adams family movies. His young adult novels in time, gorgeous and it's all your fault have been published by scholastic. He has appeared on the today show real time with Bill Mart Conan O'Brien, prairie home companion and fresh air, among many other programs. He's currently writing the book for the Broadway musical version of a double wears product. So excited during COVID HBO are Coastal Elites, written by Paul, directed by Jay Roach, starring but middler Dan Levy, is Ray, Sarah Paulson and his his latest novel is a romantic comedy entitled playing the Palace, now available online and that book stores. It's a gay Rom Cohn with a Prince and a popper kind of please welcome, Paul Cut Nick. So good to see you. Thank you 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 a lot of lgbtq content with some heavy, kind of serious stuff. It's great and 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 umbrella of comedy. Tell me how the power of comedy plays a part in your life. 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 those lives as well, because I think while the more somber stories and the more 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's one of the reasons that the I's just such a delicious tribe, you know, and it's it's a celebration. So I wanted to sort of sneak into that camp, and camps can sometimes be the operative word, but it's yeah, I wanted to really. I guess I've always just so admired gay people 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 being gay, so why not take full advantage? Nobody wanted to produce Jeffrey, which was your play, turned into a movie, because it's it was the aids of a derector in a varied time. How did you finally get it produced? Well, I lacked the said as a writer. I had wonderful and deeply eccentric agent at the time named Helen Meryl, who was German woman 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 was turned down absolutely everywhere, she at her wits end. Personally March the manuscript over 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 Kyle Rennick, 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. It changed my life and it was just an act of such sort 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 of gratitude and vindication there because the play had been so spurn 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 straight character 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 comedy inspired you as a kid growing up? Oh, it was kind of everything, from from the greats, from Moscar Wild Nol Coward Moliere, you name it, to Carol Burnett, to I love Lucy, to you know, the people who expire me today from you know trump, Tina fey. To everybody else who's out there, it's yeah, I think they're there. A lot of gay prixis, specifically gay comic resources. The Great English playwright Joe Orton is another. But they were people who I just dreamed of, you know, and dedicated myself to and had to be very careful to avoid copying. So yeah, that was that was pretty much my my pantheon. In and 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 Tom Selex mooching. Everybody love that. Did you think that the gay script doors were 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 a screenwriter? 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 gay studio 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 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 too niche, it's not relatable, it won't make money, there are no out gay stars.

And in and acted very well. So it proved nope, there is a huge audience across the board for gay material and I think in and APP became part of a climate of of gay 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 more and I think I don't know what will what, what it will take to finally 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 seen as an anomaly, as Oh, yeah, that was an exception to the rule, and know there have been way too many exceptions. Now I think the streaming services and even network television has 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's so much more advisable to give the audience a little more credit that, if nothing else, they're interested in fresh stories and stories they have not seen a million times and they've been overall, extremely welcoming to gay lives. So yeah, so I think in and out played a role there, but I never kided myself that Oh, it was going to a day and would break. Paul, do you think we're more concerned with putting out so much content that we sometimes don't hold our content accountable? To be the best in writing, the best in acting, were just so happy to have this kind of storytelling out there. Do you think we should hold our filmmakers a little bit more accountable to what they're putting out there? Well, no, more that you'd hold anyone accountable. You know, I think there is a truth that, given the the the cop the product that reaches the mainstream viewer every year, Ninety eight percent of it is going to be absolutely dreadful. That's a given. Gay, straight, you name it, and gay people have to be allowed to fail every bit as 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're not. 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. So yeah, I don't think the gay filmmaking or gay theater or gay novels need special favor. So dispensations. I think all artworks can use a little generosity and kindness. But on the other hand, no, I think yeah, sort of take a I think take amount of case by case basis. I think 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, but they are interested in seeing their lives depict it. They have that genuine, you know, yearning, and so so I think they at least tend to give gay material a chance, you know, and then they start talking to their friends. So it's, you know, they're they're not. They don't withhold playing the palace, which I'm halfway through my second reading because it's such a joy, a rom calm to gay men. One happens to be a prince. What what inspired you to be like you know, now'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 urge ready gay romantic comedy years ago. I wasn't you aware it would land if it 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. When I say roommates, are fabulous bracts roommates...

...often on that. That was when I 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 the opportunity to also depict a very powerful gay figure like Prince Edgar, the Crown Prince 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 more discriminated against, and I thought none of this was a guy real influence and that's becoming increasingly possible in the world. So I wanted to sort of lead with that. But yeah, I also I think after the last four or now five years, with what we have all been through, I was so looking forward to an escape, to a treat to the treat very quick equivalent of dessert, and that's what I hope playing the palace would become. I remember during the lockdown, the first thing I did at last fall was coastal elite, which was a cry, a pure desperate rage, and read right before the election and it was very necessary and it was just what everyone I knew was going through. But then I got to edit the galleys of playing the palace later on in the pandemic and and that was such a relief and a pleasure. There was a sense of Oh, okay, happiness is possible somewhere. Maybe it's only in a work of the in the pages of a romantic comedy, but it's out there. So so I felt the tat the time was right. You know that, especially because royalty fever has never been stronger. With make it and Harry and the rest of rector. It's the clan. 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 and all these books and all of these movies that are coming out, and this was such a breath of fresh air that when I started reading the very first few pages, my shoulders relaxed. I really just eased into it and I couldn't put the book down because it was a beautiful treat. And we talked before, 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 very funny 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 such a 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 terms of language and fashion, but there's a kind of eternal urge towards romance that I understood and that applies to the youngest and the oldest people across the boards. Everybody has always wanted to fall in love and the idea falling in love with a royal, the Cinderella Trope, has also had enormous endurance in the culture. So that was easy to plug into something that was going on today. 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 remember from when I was younger. You know, the jobs you take, the side Hustles, the desperation, the filthy apartments. You know that's that's a given and that's something that I remember all too well and from the the the younger folks who I've talked to that they that's what, just what they're going through. I think one of the few advantages, well not one of the few, but among the advantages, of getting older is that you've got a sort of larger point of view. You remember what it was like to be young and you're learning what it's like to be older. I think younger people I know. When I was young, okay, I knew about me and my friends, but everything else was a...

...little bit of guesswork. Now I've got a few more points of reference. So so yeah, I was very pleased when people thought felt that the book had a relevance to it and that it didn't feel, you know, out of place in some way. So but yeah, I think that. I guess it's also one of the advantages of online life is that it does tend to connect everyone. Yes, keep everyone a little more up to date on everything, and I think it forms it offers a lot more social history to younger people online and it offers a much 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 the power 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 a pride that some kid in some small town could also be a part of and they could communicate. It was it was a powerful pride and it was connecting people of all walks of life, all levels, from celebrity status to somebody working 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 so the well, what do you think happened and how do you handle it when a big film that you worked on doesn't is not so well received? They are called potato chips, you know, Fars and keep them coming, you know. It's nobody ever sort of sets out to create any form of fiasco and 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 a while to go away. On the other hand, that's a very privileged problem to have when you create a studio movie, that that's a misfire. So you I had to keep reminding myself that. That's another reason why I love living in New York is you'll go out on the street and everyone has their own 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 in and 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 a misstep or a failure or a bomb. You'd rather not, but sooner or later every what's going to get one, and often more than one, so you better learn to deal with it. Also, I anyone who works in the arts had better develop the toughest possible skin, because it's not an easy life. You're going to spend it awful lot of time alone. You're going to receive, if you're very lucky, a certain amount of support and a decent amount of praise, but you're also going to become a target, and I think that's more true now than ever, when there are far mohere people out there firing at you. It was something that I was interested in with playing the palace. The idea of a royal romance is a romance in the harshest possible spotlight. You know, when you watch meg it and Harry and you see what they go through and how every move they make is is analyzed and dissected online. I thought that said, an interesting challenge for a couple in love. So yeah, so it makes Stepford wives put Stepford waves at a bit of perspective. I thought, okay, I got willing. Had done better work before, wouldn't afterwards. were, I guess, by a the of my other rule in life, one of the only ones, always make fresh mistakes. Don't repeat the same ones. You know. So that that's maybe that's a mean low. I like that words to live by. You know, some of the magic that... put on the screen that I subscribe to, and I'm a huge fan, is the magic that you made with the Adams family movies. It nobody can duplicate what happened in those films, from the acting to to the writing to the perfect direction. What did you 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 of Charles Adams original cartoons, which were so brilliant. I mean all of that is is sowed so much to him, but also with that cast, with Rold Julia and Angelica used it and Christina Reachi and Chris ID and the the heavenly Joe Cusack, it's very hard to go wrong, you know. So I love one of the my favorite part of those movies was that they were big budget studio films that were not expected to be wholesome. You could actually kill people, you could toss babies off the roof. You know, you got learned me for a lot and it was it was all not just accepted but cheered. So it was this amazing opportunity. So I was 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 Studio apartment and be typing Gomes and more Tisha and here a decaying French restaurant. And then a year later I was on a sound stage in Los Angeles 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 a little terrified. I thought to myself, Oh, should we maybe have spent this 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, but be ready, you know. So that and the addams family also. It was 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 learned a lot of the rules of the family and I specially had learned to cherish Christina Ricci's work as Wednesday I think she was such an audience favorite that I could give her a lot more to do the second time out. So it was at a great benefit to have had the first film perform well. What I would I looked about the films. As you know, I was this Chubby Latino Gay kid who didn't know I was gay, and it really made the outcast and the misfits the heroes. They were the heroes and they were the beautiful parts of those films and that's what I really really was a attracted to. Okay, Paul, the gays would kill me if I didn't ask about 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, and Elton 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 Chicago next summer. So I think, do to the pandemic and the nature of the beast, it's taken a while, but I think that the the team wants to very much pay tribute to a beloved movie and Lauren Weisberger's terrific best selling 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 all that needs very much to be reflected in any newer, newer version of the devil worse product. So it's been a process, you know, and there a a sort of a learning curve where you think, okay, how do we make sure that the audience still recognizes this story and welcomes these beloved characters but is surprised at a few changes that...

...have been 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've got a couple of things in the works. I wait too superstitious to ever talk about that because 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 well called guilty pleasure. That will that was about to be produced by the Lahaya playhouse in California right it's one of the best theaters in southern California. In California, if you are local or even fly in, loya playhouse does some really 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 Chris Ashley, who runs that theater and has been my longtime collaborator. So we needed to postpone it because of the pandemic, but sometimes I think in the coming year it will return there. So I can't wait to work at the Oh yeah, I love I'll be there opening night, front row. All right, this one's for social media. This month, obviously we are celebrating pride. You are in our pride issue of Metro stores. What moment from your career is a standout prideful moment for you? Oh my God, they've been so many. I remember one sort of delicious moment was was after Jeffrey opened off Broadway. And I should mention that all the actors in New York had been ferociously warned away from even auditioning for the play. Their agents and managers, some of whom were gay themselves, would say no, no, you can't, you can't go anywhere near this play, your career will be over. And so I was so grateful for this stranginary cast who also just had some guts and showed up and we're magnificent. And then we had a float 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 Oh pecular point in time. So it was yeah, because it was a big year 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 Tom you would and Harriet Harris on board the Jeffrey float, you know, and it 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 and Harriet, who sadly is not gay but she was a major heartthrough for the women'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 from whoi door, from this play that I've written and this incredible guy that I just met. So, yeah, that's sort of New York at its finest. What a magic time, right. So, obviously there has to be a biopic made about you. Who would play you in the film? Oh my Lord, it would take a lot of prosthetics. Whoever better done by puppets 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 from ugly Betty, from Byron Seller off Broadway. He recorded the audiobook and did just a 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 the changes in the in the entertainment industry. That's been a an amazing and such a delightful development, the amount of out gay actors that Hollywood can no longer say we have no gay leading men or translating ladies. You know, you've got 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 very successful careers. So it's it's proved a lot of the the naysayers and the superstitions wrong, and so so I would be having if any of those people in the Paul read next story. I... it. Tell our audience where you want them to find you and follow you. They could find me on twitter at Paul Rednick and why I'm on facebook. I'm also I have a website, Paul redneckcom. Playing the palace has a has a lot of postings on instagram. So so take your pick and read the book. It's such a fun read. It's a perfect for summer. It's a perfect on the plane, you know, on the train, next to the pool, just at home quiet night. Just read the book. It's so delightful. Paul, I could literally talk to you for hours and hours about the industry and your 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. Thank you 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 always an 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 new stands across the nation or Metro sourcecom. And that's another episode of Metro Source Minis. I'm your host, Alexander Rodriguez. Find me on Instagram at Alexander is on air. Until next time, stay true and do Yu Boo. That has been another metro source mini like share, subscribe on your favorite podcast player and check out the latest issue of Metro source magazine on newstands or online at Metro sportscom. Follow us on Facebook, instagram at natural source and on twitter at Metro course man. Until next time, thanks,.

In-Stream Audio Search


Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (52)