Working for B-movie great Roger Corman in the early 1980s launched director David DeCoteau’s career, but in the 57 films he’s directed in the 20-some years since, the openly gay director has carved out a niche all his own.
His string of horror thrillers have made him a guilty pleasure on the home video circuit and, with 2001’s The Brotherhood, he became known as the go to guy for the homoerotic thriller.
Now, with the flicks he’s making for here! Networks, including last year’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptation The Raven and his just wrapped Devil is a Woman, his images of toned college aged hunks in Speedos doing battle with supernatural forces have found a devoted audience.
In 1999, the director’s gift for turning the horror genre on its ear with his sexy man in peril twist led DeCoteau to form his own production company.
While he describes himself as the luckiest guy on earth, “a fan boy who got the keys to the Cadillac”, if you will, if Spielberg calls, well, he’ll answer.
GayWired.com: Tell me a bit more about your latest project. I know it stemmed from your love of films like Dangerous Liaisons and the adaptation, Cruel Intentions.
David DeCoteau: Yes! I decided I wanted to go back to the original book of Dangerous Liaisons. It was one of the first projects I pitched to Paul Colichman and Steve Jarchow (heads of GayWired Media and its parent company, Regent Entertainment), but we didn’t really have a home for it.
They had just done Gods & Monsters. So over the years we’ve been developing it and turning it into something that is the best it can be.
When here! was launched, that’s when we decided to fast track this and get it going.
GW: You’ve become known for making these films and essentially introducing the world to these leading men who go on to have huge careers. Are there any big stars you’ve passed on?
DD: Yeah, Brad Pitt. It was the writer’s strike of ’87 or ’88, television shut down essentially and almost every actor came in to read. Brad Pitt had not done Thelma & Louise yet, he was still relatively new and he was reading for everybody.
I remember he came in at 5pm to read for the role of the nerd, the lead in a film called Dr. Alien. He’s just so beautiful and so stunning, I would have loved to use him, but at that point, I really didn’t trust my instincts. Nowadays with nerds, I just cast really hot guys and put glasses on them.
It was one of those rare moments I didn’t trust my instincts, it was still really early in my career, maybe my fourth movie. And also James Franco. He read for me three times and I just didn’t see it.
GW: Well, I’d say you have a pretty good track record.
DD: I have a totally different casting process. I go through all the submissions, so if there’s 5,000 submissions, I go through every headshot. Then I pick all of the people who are coming in. Then I’m there at every pre read.
Most of the time, the director lets the casting director do all of that and then he gets to look at the top five.
The problem is, sometimes, if the character is supposed to be 5’11″ with brown hair and somebody like Riley Smith comes in, the casting director would go, ‘well, he’s blonde. Let’s not bring him to the director.’ I don’t want to miss one single potential star.
GW: How did your early career with Roger Corman help to shape the career you’ve gone on to have?
DD: Back in Portland, Oregon, where I’m from, I started to work in movie theatres at 15. I was working at the candy counter and worked my way up to projectionist when I was 16.
I used to show a lot of the Roger Corman films, so I kind of came into wanting to be a film maker because of the films of Roger Corman.
I wrote him a letter—I had started the Roger Corman fan club—and his assistant at the time was a woman named Gale Anne Hurd (who went on to produce most of James Cameron’s films).
She said, ‘If you ever come to L.A., I’ll set up a meeting with Roger.’ She set it up, I met with him, and he took an hour and a half off of his busy day. I was thrilled and he said, ‘If you ever move to Hollywood, let me know… I’ll try to put you to work.’
So I moved to L.A. when I was 18 and applied for the job. James Cameron was an art director there, so I got to know James really well and I became an all around production assistant at company. His whole model, his whole style of filmmaking was really liberating and empowering.
GW: When you struck out on your own and started your production company, was it out of a desire to exist outside the Hollywood system?
DD: Look, I want to direct a big Hollywood picture like any other director, it’s just that Paramount hasn’t been calling lately. This is what I do for a living.
Although I want to direct big studio pictures, I just can’t wait around and sit at Starbucks and talk about them. I come from very humble beginnings, I don’t have rich parents and I said to myself, ‘Look… I’ve got to start making movies,’ and in 1986, I raised some cash and made a micro budget movie.
Then the VHS revolution took off and I just couldn’t make enough movies. I just by default became an indie film maker.
GW: Certainly, having your own studio has allowed you the freedom to make movies more in line with your own tastes.
DD: I was making a lot of B movies and car crash movies and teen movies and sex comedies, when I turned 30, I came out of the closet, and I realised there were a lot of gay guys and gay women that dug movies the kind of movies that I like. So I just thought, well maybe I should start making movies that have a little bit more appeal to gay people.
GW: You walk such a fine line between being outwardly gay with your films and hinting at it. How do you know how far is acceptable?
DD: The films have provoked interesting responses Some people have said, ‘you’re the antithesis of what we want in a horror film.’ There’s no violence, there’s no naked chicks, there’s no misogyny. I’ve had my fans and I’ve had my critics.
A lot of people have said, ‘You make the gayest movies about straight guys I’ve ever seen.’ I want the best of all worlds. I want to be able to appeal to both. The films have a fairly sizable gay following, but they also have a big hetero female following. I’ve stumbled into a genre that is getting very close to the line, and so far, so good.
GW: I know a few times you’ve been able to go all the way—to have a gay or a bisexual character. Has working on films with here! made that easier?
DD: I did a film called Skeletons, which was a thriller about gay intolerance. I also did a black and white art house movie called Leather Jacket Love Story. And actually, in a number of the films, I’ve had openly bisexual characters.
Since here! is an LGBT network that celebrates diversity, there’s usually quite a few bisexual characters, and a few gay characters as well.
When you’re working in a genre—say the supernatural—and you’re doing a vampire movie, they’re notoriously androgynous. So you can kind of swing this way, that way… You’ve got 85 minutes to tell your story, you can’t tell a character’s entire sexual history, but you can usually figure it out.
Most importantly, now, I’m able to tell the stories the way I want to tell them. I’m a fan first, a director second. I’m a fan boy who got the keys to the Cadillac. I’m the luckiest guy on the planet.
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