ROMANCE: Actors Ryan Corr and Craig Stott in a scene of Holding the Man.
ROMANCE: Actors Ryan Corr and Craig Stott in a scene of Holding the Man. Contributed

Local support for John and Tim's love story

HOLDING the Man is a new film following the highly successful book of the same name by Tim Conigrave.

The book, which has been reprinted 15 times in Australia alone, also became a successful theatre play in Sydney.

This weekend, an ACON fundraiser preview of the film will be held in Byron Bay ahead of its official release.

ACON has teamed up with the film's producers as well as Byron Plantation and the Art House (two local hinterland holiday accommodation venues owned by Peter Waters, a local investor in the film) to present the event and help promote the film's message of acceptance and inclusion of LGBTI people and people with HIV.

We spoke to the film's producer, Kylie du Fresne, about the production.

This book is revered as a true document of a very important era in Australia's recent history. How hard was it to translate it to the big screen?

Film producer Kylie du Fresne.
Film producer Kylie du Fresne. Contributed

I only read the book a few months later after approaching Tommy Murphy about adapting the work to the screen.

When we started working together, we had to make the decision whether to pursue an adaptation from the stage play, the book or a combination of both. It took a lot of experimentation for us to realise that we should concentrate on the original source material, the book.

This was more aligned tonally to the film Neil Armfield wanted to make and presented so many more cinematic opportunities for our adaptation, moments that Tommy Murphy loved but could never find a home for in the stage play.

How do you make this film accessible to the broader mainstream Australian audience?

We set out to tell a love story first and foremost and while it is a great gay love story, ultimately it is just a great love story, regardless of gender.

And there are many touch stones for a wider audience. Some viewers connect strongly to the parents' stories- the protection and love any parent has for their child, others connect to those awkward teenage first dates, some connect by remembering their first true love, or just immersing themselves in the deep connection that Tim and John clearly shared. It's also a film with some really funny moments which often surprises viewers.

How difficult was to cast the film?

We tested something like 300+ actors for the roles of Tim Conigrave and John Caleo. At the start of the process, we thought we might change actors from the teenage boys to the older boys, but in hindsight, that was partly about being unsure if we could find the right actors to play Tim and John all the way through.

Then we found Ryan Corr and Craig Stott who had the most amazing chemistry right from the start and, being in their mid-20s, could also convincingly play younger and older.

The incredible ensemble cast around them - Anthony LaPaglia, Kerry Fox, Guy Pearce, Saran Snook and Geoffrey Rush - all came to the film because of their connection to the material and feeling it was an important story to tell, and of course because of the reputation of Neil Armfield as a wonderful director.

Do you think the film can become a flag for the marriage equality campaign?

When we set the release date for this film, none of us had any idea that this debate would be sitting so firmly in the same period.

This film is not about marriage equality, but it invariably speaks to this - Tim and John had a 15 year relationship and they wore wedding rings, and yet Tim was recognised as a 'friend' at John's funeral, rather than 'husband' or 'partner'.

This is a film about love, and we do hope that people who see it and who have not been supportive of marriage equality, may view the issue differently.

I received an email recently from an audience member in NZ who wrote:

"In this case it was the fact that two people of the same gender can have a love as strong, genuine and intense as any "straight" relationship. I fully appreciate that this should be obvious to everybody, but sometimes it can take an experience like this movie to bring it home."

This was someone who may never normally have gone to see a gay love story.

What do you expect mainstream audiences to get out of this film?

 A deeply moving experience, tears and a lots of laughter on the way.

At Byron Bay Palace cinemas this Sunday at 6pm. $25. Includes the film, sparkling wine or soft drink on arrival and a Q&A with the film's producer Kylie du Fresne and actor Ryan Corr.

Click here to book online



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