AT HOME WITH THE GAYS
In Ideal Home, a gay couple unexpectedly find themselves parents to a young boy. Both comedy and disaster ensue!
In Ideal Home, a gay couple find themselves parents to a young boy. Comedy and disaster ensue! We meet the film’s director, Andrew Fleming.
DNA: What made you decide that this was the story you wanted to tell at this time? Andrew Fleming: It was the characters, Paul and Erasmus. I tried to make a story happen with them but it didn’t work until somebody suggested they have a kid. I fact, I was in a long-term relationship with a man and was living with his son from a marriage to a woman. I was living a life like this. Different though; this isn’t an autobiography, but I found I had a lot to say.
Would you identify more with Erasmus then? I’m Erasmus on a good day. I’m Paul on a bad day.
Is Erasmus based on anyone in real life?
No, though many people have pointed out similarities between Erasmus and me but also between Paul and me.
The actors, Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd, are perfectly cast. Did you have them in mind when you wrote the script?
I didn’t write with anyone in mind, which is odd because I know Steve Coogan, he’s a good friend, we’ve made a movie before, but it never occurred to me to write it for him. Then it was like a thunderbolt – who should play this part? Oh, Steve! I’m glad I didn’t have him in mind and that he made the role his own, rather than me trying to make it for him. Steve asked who else we should send the script to and the first person on our list was Paul Rudd. They’d worked together
briefly in one scene in one movie and were mutual fans. They are both so good that they can make themselves seem well cast in any part.
I was really surprised at how natural and believable they are.
I think they are imitating me.
I love the pearls of wisdom Erasmus gives to the boy, such as, “everything is temporary”. Where did that come from?
Somebody once said it to me and it blew my mind, so I wrote it down. I wish I’d thought of it.
You directed an episode of Arrested Development, easily one of the best TV comedies of the last decade, and there’s a similar manic, pace to Ideal Home. Can you comment on that?
I only did one episode of Arrested Development and it was fun. It’s a different style, but I appreciate the compliment because that show was so unsparing, never saccharin and it was smart. We tried to do that in Ideal Home. There were a couple of places where I was trying to make an emotional point but Steve and Paul just kept making faces at the idea. I’m glad they did because I found that even if something is funny it doesn’t undercut the emotion. It was similar on Arrested Development where everyone is an A-player and you just let them go and they do great. It was the same with Paul and Steve.
I’ve heard that Steve is great at ad-libbing; did he create jokes on-set or was the script tightly stuck to?
Steve and Paul are both writers so they had a lot of input ahead of time and came up with lots of great lines that are in the movie. They don’t make up stuff in the take, though, I guess I was occasionally surprised. They are both more measured than that. They are both insanely talented.
You shot on location in New Mexico. Was that important to the story?
I set it in Santa Fe, selfishly, because it’s one of my favourite places. Steve and Paul both fell in love with it. We also shot in Albuquerque, which is nearby. On their number plates it says, “Land Of Enchantment” and it really is. In fact, that’s what we were originally going to call the movie. Erasmus is very English and I like the idea that he has come out to this beautiful place, put on cowboy gear and is living the fantasy. I’ve observed Europeans, especially English people, loving the cowboy vibe in Santa Fe. That’s funny to me.
How do you find living in the USA from an LGBT perspective during the Trump administration? When Trump was elected it woke everybody up, not just in the LGBTIQ community. Any person who didn’t vote for him was surprised and I can tell you that everybody has engaged more since. Everybody I know has become more political, and I certainly have. The stakes are higher. I don’t think he is a particular threat to the LGBTIQ community; I think he’s a threat overall. I’m more worried about the planet with him in the Oval Office.
The movie goes quite deep towards the end, especially the subplot of the older son in rehab. Was it important to have the happy ending with the child but then this lingering, darker element with the other son? Yeah. Steve and Paul are both so funny but the darker element was certainly in the script. I’m not interested in full comedy or full drama. I love drama that’s funny or comedy that serious. I love that space between. People have either said that it was funnier than they expected or more serious. It just depends on your expectations.
The trailer suggests a more comedic film. There’s a funny scene at the school in which the subject of adoption comes up.
As a gay couple it’s harder to adopt, but I liked the idea that Paul and Erasmus are unlikely parents. This is what happens to straight people: they have sex and then, oh, sometimes there’s a kid. It just happens. But this is also a love story and the kid is the catalyst. He’s already pretty smart; he doesn’t really change through the story. He’s got his act together in a weird way.
He does start out homophobic, doesn’t he? Maybe. He wants to sleep in the car rather than in their house, but then he has the hilarious scene at school where he’s teaching his classmates things not to say to gay people. Having a kid with the gay couple, and looking at their lives is comedic, but also speaks to a fear that gay parents may have that their child might not be accepting.
When you were in a gay relationship and living with your partner’s son, was that a difficult time? At the time we were an anomaly. We didn’t know any other gay couples that had children in their house, but it’s much more commonplace now. It has changed so much in 20 years. You just don’t blink when you see two guys or two women with a baby stroller. It’s a non-event, and that’s a great thing.
Having a kid with a gay couple, and looking at their lives is comedic, but also speaks to a fear that gay parents may have that their child might not be accepting.
Gay Dads – No Idea Erasmus and Paul (Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan) with Jack Gore as Bill in Ideal Home.
Director and writer, Andrew Fleming.