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Director Andrew Fleming on 'Ideal Home,' His Gay Rom-Com with a Twist

by Frank J. Avella
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Jul 6, 2018

What happens when a singular and spoiled Santa Fe cooking show host and his producer and long-time same-sex partner have no choice but to take in a surly 10-year-old boy? That's the question asked in Andrew Fleming's funny and affectionate new film "Ideal Home." Erasmus (Steve Coogan) is the self-absorbed star of his own TV show. Paul (Paul Rudd) is his bearded and bitchy boyfriend of ten years. Suddenly and without warning, Bill (Jack Gore), Erasmus's biological grandson, is on the scene and the bickering couple is forced to alter their selfish routines to care for him.

At a time when LGBTQ parenting is under fire in the U.S. thanks to the current regime - I mean, administration - the question "What defines a family?" has never been a more vital and urgent one.

Writer-director Andrew Fleming's career was launched with his second feature, "Threesome," in 1994, an tale of unrequited love where a gay guy (Josh Charles) crushes on a straight (but oddly curious) dude (Stephen Baldwin, when he was cute and not a Trumpian). Oh, and Lara Flynn Boyle was usually safely positioned between the two.

In the last two decades Fleming has quite successfully ping-ponged between TV ("Younger," "Odd Mom Out") and film ("Nancy Drew," "The Craft").

With "Ideal Home" he is back telling another story, using his singular comedic style that is very close to home for him.

Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd in "Ideal Home."

EDGE spoke with Fleming on the eve of the film's release.

EDGE: You've called the film, "the most personal movie I have ever made." Can you elaborate on that?

Andrew Fleming: Well, I lived with a gentleman for 23 years with his son, from a previous marriage to a woman, and it (the script) started off being a completely fictionalized story... and kind of migrated into my life situation. Nobody was interested in the script, so I had a long time to keep improving it and using aspects of my life in it, and it became personal. And my relationship ended just as I was about to begin the movie... so it was an interesting, delicate, psychological thing to recreate my life onscreen... it's complicated. It's a work of fiction, but it's very personal, composed of pieces of my life.

EDGE: One of the most important themes of the film has to do with LGBTQ people as parents. In these truly bizarre times where acceptance seemed to come fast but now there's a major political backlash, I wanted to gauge whether the script changed along the journey to the screen?

Andrew Fleming: Yeah. I was living in this configuration in the '90s with this gentleman and his son. Families have been living like this for a long time. It's been an extraordinary experience to go to film festivals with this movie and some people come up to me afterwards crying and say, 'I'm so happy to see my life reflected here...' .There are so many stories and we should be sharing them. It was one of the motivations for putting those photographs over the credits at the end, to show the normalcy of it, how it's pervasive, how there are so many same-sex couples raising kids and we should celebrate it.

Jack Gore and Steve Coogan in "Ideal Home."

EDGE: Were Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd always your choices to play the leads?

Andrew Fleming: No - it's ridiculous, because I'm really good friends with Steve Coogan, but I didn't think of him for the part until after it was written. But once I thought of it, it was just perfect. I love working with him... And we thought who'd be the best Paul, and the first person on the list was Paul Rudd... Steve sent him the script and he said, "Oh, I like this," the next day.

EDGE: Did you consider casting out actors?

Andrew Fleming: Certainly. And there was a small process where I asked who are gay actors who could play either of these parts? By the way, the Steve and Paul thing happened very quickly but I did this check at one point: Who is going to be better than either of them? And I couldn't think of anybody who'd be better. And I'm gay and I wrote and directed it, so I didn't feel like it was a bunch of straight people making a gay movie. I also did a super stealth thing. I tried to fill the small parts with as many gay people as possible... I just think in the end you need the best person for the part.

EDGE: It does come down to the best actor for the part.

Andrew Fleming: Yeah... I think the real issue is that not enough of these stories are being told. Once it (the film) was done, a friend of mine looked at it and said it was a gay Nora Ephron movie, which it kind of is. It's a gay romantic comedy. And I [thought], "What are the other gay romantic comedies?" And there aren't any... there's been a spate of very high quality smaller gay dramas recently, but I don't see myself represented in film. It's hard to make a gay movie. It's harder to make a gay movie that's funny. It's like Ginger Rogers doing all the same things that Fred Astaire is doing, only in heels and backwards.

Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan in "Ideal Home."

EDGE: It must be an interesting journey for you as a filmmaker to go from 1994's "Threesome" to "Ideal Home," now.

Andrew Fleming: Yeah, they're kind of flip sides of the same coin. They're related. That movie was very much composed of pieces of my life put into a fictional box in the same kind of way.

EDGE: You work a lot in TV as well as film. Do you have a medium preference, and do you feel that the lines between them are blurring?

Andrew Fleming: Yeah, I feel like there's so much creativity on TV now... There are very few people that have that sense of superiority over television because there's so much good TV now... There used to be one model for how TV got made, and now there are so many different ones. Even within Netflix - I have a project that I just finished with them that's opening later this summer ("Insatiable"), and there's all these different kinds of ways you can get shows made on Netflix, different branches of the company and different styles, different financial models. And they're all valid.

EDGE: Does that make it more exciting?

Andrew Fleming: TV is certainly more exciting. The movie business is shrinking. It's much harder to get a movie made now than it used to be. And even harder to get it released.

Andrew Fleming

EDGE: Has there been a specific reaction to the film from the festival showings that has stayed with you?

Andrew Fleming: I was at one in Connecticut. I was there alone so I was adrift at the party afterwards - it was the opening night film. And I was just struck by how, for about two hours, people came up to me and wanted to tell their stories of being a gay parent or being raised by a gay parent. It was really striking. Some people were very emotional.

EDGE: Were you always out in the industry and what do you see the outlook to be for LGBTQ artists being able to be out and have careers?

Andrew Fleming: I was one of the first directors in Hollywood to come out. I'm told by one journalist I was the first, but it was 1994 because of "Threesome" and the New York Times called and I assumed lots of people were out. I didn't realize that nobody was out at that point. It's much different now. People don't care. They're nonchalant about it. And that's good. Nobody should care. It's nobody's business who I'm having sex with... (laughs)... unless I make a movie about it, and then I guess it fair game to ask about it.

"Ideal Home" is in limited release.

Watch the trailer for "Ideal Home."

Frank J. Avella is a film and theatre journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He is also a proud Dramatists Guild member and a recipient of a 2018 Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship. He was awarded a 2015 Fellowship Award from the NJ State Council on the Arts, the 2016 Helene Wurlitzer Residency Grant and the Chesley/Bumbalo Foundation Playwright Award for his play Consent, which was also a 2012 semifinalist for the O'Neill. His play, Vatican Falls, took part in the 2017 Planet Connections Festivity and Frank was nominated for Outstanding Playwriting. Lured was a semifinalist for the 2018 O'Neill and received a 2018 Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation Grant. Lured will premiere in 2018 in NYC and 2019 in Rome, Italy. LuredThePlay.com


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