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Film and TV

Netflix’s stunning new action movie The Old Guard features one of the best responses to casual homophobia ever committed to film

Nick Duffy July 20, 2020
The cast of The Old Guard. Marwan Kenzari as Joe, Matthias Schoenaerts as Booker, Charlize Theron as Andy, Luca Marinelli as Nicky, Kiki Layne as Nile.

The cast of The Old Guard. Marwan Kenzari as Joe, Matthias Schoenaerts as Booker, Charlize Theron as Andy, Luca Marinelli as Nicky, Kiki Layne as Nile. (AIMEE SPINKS/NETFLIX)

Netflix’s new action flick The Old Guard is getting a lot of love for its diverse, queer characters.

The film stars Charlize Theron as the leader of a small cohort of immortal vigilantes.

Among them are Yusuf Al-Kaysani and Niccolò di Genova – known as Joe and Nicky – who met on opposing sides during the Crusades and have been lovers ever since.

The relationship between the pair, played by Marwan Kenzari and Luca Marinelli, is clear and prominent throughout the film.

Marwan Kenzari as Joe and Luca Marinelli as Nicky in The Old Guard
Marwan Kenzari as Joe and Luca Marinelli as Nicky in The Old Guard (AIMEE SPINKS/NETFLIX)

Early on, Joe explains to newcomer Nile: “Nicky and I met in the Crusades. The love of my life was of the people I’d been taught to hate. We killed each other, many times.”

The Old Guard features a powerful declaration of love.

One stand-out moment, though, comes midway through The Old Guard – after the two lovers have been captured by goons working for the villainous pharma CEO Martin Shkreli – wait, no, sorry, “Steven Merrick”.

When Joe shows concern for the restrained Nicky, one of the guards mockingly asks: “Is he your boyfriend?”

In response to the jibe, Joe declares: “You’re a child. An infant. Your mocking is thus infantile.

“He’s not my boyfriend. This man is more to me than you can dream. He’s the moon when I’m lost in darkness and warmth when I shiver in cold. And his kiss still thrills me, even after a millennia.

“His heart overflows with the kindness of which this world is not worthy of. I love this man beyond measure and reason. He’s not my boyfriend. He’s all and he’s more.”

Leaning in for a passionate kiss, Nicky replies: “You’re an incurable romantic.”

The moment shuts the goons up – and, just for good measure, Nicky and Joe proceed to beat them all unconscious off-camera.

The poignant scene stems directly from the graphic novel on which the film was based, penned by Greg Rucka.

According to a Vulture feature, the scene was so important to Rucka that he “stipulated in his contract” that it must be included in the film adaptation.

Marwan Kenzari turned to Greek mythology to draw inspiration for ‘intense’ relationship.

The significance was not lost on actor Marwan Kenzari.

He told Vulture of filming the moment: “It was extremely important for me, since that scene is the heart of the character. It moved me – there’s so much depth in those words. And it was tricky, too, because it can quickly turn into a sentimental thing.”

He added: “I was determined to get it right, and I was happy with the result. We had fun in that van and we laughed a lot. It was a long night shoot, but it was well set up, since the camera was that close it was a good way to show this bit.”

The significance of the moment was not lost on the actors
The significance of the moment was not lost on the actors

While the film does not explore the couple’s Crusades backstory as much as the graphic novel, Kenzari said: “I thought it was important to focus on the fact that they started as each other’s enemies. There are a couple great drawings in the novel that show them standing head-to-head on the battlefield after quite a bloody battle. It reminded me of epic scenes in Braveheart or Gladiator.

“It was important because of the fact that they are loves now — soul mates, symbiotically attached forever. It’s a strong message: the one on the opposite side becomes the other side of the heart that beats.”

The actor also revealed to Vulture that he turned to ancient gay relationships from Greek mythology for inspiration.

He said: “You’re talking about characters that are together for so long – if you and I are lucky, we can be with someone that you love for a maximum amount of time as a human being. But you can only imagine what that would be like if you could be 1,000 years old.

“That creates a love relationship, but also a psychological relationship, a spiritual relationship, and emotional relationship that’s something we’ve never seen or experienced.

“In Greek mythology, and I especially thought of Achilles and Patroclus, they have this indescribable attachment, a huge rope that goes from Achilles’s heart to Patroclus’s heart… Joe and Nicky, their souls are connected.”

More: charlize theron, Homophobia, lgbt representation in film, Marwan Kenzari, netflix, The Old Guard

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