I always loved the casting of Derek Magyar as X in the movie version of my novel Boy Culture. I loved it initially because of all the leads, Derek came the closest to matching the mental image I had when I was creating his character. I can’t even remember how I pictured X when I wrote about him in college (with effort, I can’t even remember college)—in my memory now, he just always looked like Derek.
Because of the physical chemistry between how I wanted X to look and how Derek looks, it was just immediately comforting to see him embody “X,” an initially black-hearted, sexually dysfunctional doppelganger of one aspect of my 20-year-old self. He also compares favorably to the anonymous model whose abs helped my novel sell so well—and who incidentally was a straight go-go boy too embarrassed to show his face on the cover of a gay book, hence the mesmerizing use of those identity-concealing hands.
But Derek had more to live up to for this author and for fans of the original novel—he couldn’t just look the part. X attempts to control “this story, my story,” as well as the effects of his own emotions, to such a fascistic degree that eventually, the reader (or in this case the viewer) might wonder if X is even telling the truth. With a character that domineering, any missteps could have ruined the film.
“I knew X was a difficult character and the key to his success and the success of the film really was to make him likeable, so that by the end of the film you couldn’t help but understand and sympathize with X and care about him and his happiness,” Derek tells me. “I knew this was going to be the key element of the film and that it would be a challenge, but I hope I was able to make him likeable...I did my best.”
Far from ruining Boy Culture, Derek conquers it. Beginning with (literally) impenetrable iciness and changing with each passing scene, Derek’s X is every bit as hard to pin down as the fiction who began talking through me all those years ago.
Derek looks good, but acts better.
Derek’s voice-overs in Boy Culture help give the film its edge, sounding world-weary, sensual and secretive even while confessing to the deadliest sin: humanity. Because that voice is so omnipresent in the film, it makes for an odd first meeting with its real-life owner—it’s plain enough that Derek Magyar is not really X, but when he speaks, it’s hard not to flash back to scenes of X giving guys the brush-off at the bar called Boykultur or going for the jugular while sparring with his roommate Andrew (Darryl Stephens). Or you might remember his gripping masturbation scene, an oxymoronically unforgettable stretch of celluloid in which X declares auto-eroticism an eraser.
But while Derek could be described as circumspect, he’s not chilly. It could be another case of looking the part—his commanding presence might make new acquaintances worry he’ll be aloof. It’s not only his good looks that impress, it’s the cerebral quality that he projects. If X radiates intellect in the film version of Boy Culture, it’s at least in part because Derek does. If X seems to be on a restless journey, it might be because Derek is—he says of his career in acting that the struggle in getting there is all the fun.
In Boy Culture, pinned down about why he hustles, X eventually offers, “I’m not good at anything else,” a sentiment that would not apply to Derek. Along with acting, he directed a play in Los Angeles (yes, they have them there, snobby East Coasters). “I would love to continue directing—it’s a totally different medium, very difficult and thrilling,” he tells me. “We will see what the future has in store.”
If X were an actor instead of a hustler, he’d probably want to direct, and if Derek were a gay hustler instead of a straight actor, he’d probably get the guy.
Yep, he’s straight. But don’t let that bother you politically. I can guarantee that director Q. Allan Brocka would have hired an openly gay man for the part—if any had been ballsy enough to play it, or ballsy enough to be openly gay in the first place. But he wouldn’t have hired an openly gay man who couldn’t have played the part better than Derek does.
Like I said—I love the casting.
Matthew: Some straight actors are fearful of playing gay parts. Did you factor that kind of thing in when you read for Boy Culture? What drew you to the part?
Derek: I auditioned for Boy Culture because I was really drawn to the character of X. I found him to be a really interesting person—filled with human emotion, afraid to love, dry humor, filled with walls which keep him from letting go. All things I think we can all relate to on a human level. Gay or straight.
Matthew: What was your first read like?
Derek: I first read for Boy Culture in Los Angeles at a casting office for all of the producers and Allan. It felt great. Then I came back for a mix and match for everyone again. Then I got the role.
Matthew: Was X a hard character to get into? I happen to think you nailed it.
Derek: I appreciate you saying I nailed it! It means a lot coming from the writer of the book. It wasn’t that hard for me to get into the character of X. I found a lot of X in myself and just brought that to the character. X felt very close to me in many, many ways. He is definitely mysterious...keeps that air of mystery so he can feel like he is in control, so no one is toooo close. He is still in charge of the situation completely.
Derek was an actor "Flaunt"ing it in Flaunt. Coincidentally, the mag's style director Long Nguyen bought my former apartment in Chelsea.
Matthew: Speaking of the book, had you read it when you went for the part?
Derek: I read the novel after I booked the part but before we left for principal photography in Seattle. I knew that this was a film with heart a bit before shooting but really once we were working on it, it hit me like a ton of bricks that we had the potential of having a real gem on our hands. That especially became evident while working with Patrick [Bauchau, who plays “Gregory”].
Matthew: I was invited to the set but didn’t make it out there for the 10-minute shoot. What did you film first?
Matthew: That’s insane. X’s most wrenching moment. Did you, Jonathon and Darryl get close making the movie? Did you hang out?
A hilarious scene in which the roommates cruise hotties, apparently using Joey's extra-long tongue as bait.
Derek: The three of us definitely became close during shooting. We all became like a family on this film, the cast and the crew. Darryl and Jonanthon and I hung out all the time. Whether we were in the same trailer hanging out or eating together or partying together, we were like a family unit. That’s how it should be—you leave L.A. and this is your new temporary family. It just so happened to fit perfectly for the film as well.
Derek: Allan is a great director. I hope we can work together again in the future. He is a very free director. He knows what he wants but is willing to take chances. He was always willing to give me another take or try the scene my way or a way that could oppose the text, but may just make a perfect fit for a particular scene. He’s fun and great with actors...which is key!
Matthew: I especially like your scenes with Patrick. Do you?
Derek: The scenes I did with Patrick were by far the most special moments to me during this film. He is a wonderful actor and a fantastic human being, filled with so much knowledge. We built a real friendship outside of the characters of X and Gregory which transferred onto the screen, I think. I really hope to work with him again in the near future. He’s so real and honest. I think that’s why the scenes between X and Gregory are so good. They are very sincere and real. He is a truly an incredible actor and I feel lucky to have worked with him.
Derek: All the romantic moments during the film were all in a day's work! Both Patrick and Darryl became close friends of mine, so being straight or anything like that didn’t even come into play. It was just friends working doing what they had to do. No biggie whatsoever.
Derek: I am proud of my performance of X in general. I am a very critical actor and person so there are always things that I feel could have been better. But I feel like I did justice to X. I hope the audience agrees because that is what matters most. I think the work of everyone else in the film really sticks out! Not just all the other actors, but the crew on this film sticks out to me. They worked so hard, they deserve so much credit and thanks.
Derek: I have only had a couple friends see the film thus far but they have enjoyed it and have responded to my work very much and to the character, which means so much to me. My parents enjoyed the film as well and were very pleased with the work I did and the development I made into X’s world, because they read the script as well and knew how difficult a challenge it would be to bring X to life and make him likeable and they found him completely likeable. Pleased parents... success! The first time I saw the film was at TriBeCa and I was very nervous at first but was very pleased with the film and my work by the time the film was finished.
Matthew: Did you always act or were you a late bloomer? You first popped up on a lot of radars with your stint on Star Trek: Enterprise.
Derek: I’d been acting since I was a kid. Up the street from the elementary school I went to in Los Angeles was a well-known little theatre called the Santa Monica Playhouse and that is where it all started for me when I was about 10 years old or so. Never stopped! I knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Theater is where my heart lies, but Los Angeles is such a tough theater town. I think they’re starting to be more accepting of theater, but it’s an uphill battle.
I have been blessed to make a living as an actor. Not that that means I’m not in the struggle, because I sure am and I don't know if the struggle ever stops. But to be honest, that’s part of the thrill of what we do...builds the skin.
Matthew: You’re in the struggle, and yet you’re asked for autographs at film festivals by people thrilled to be in the same room with you.
Derek: I am honored that people would feel special to be in the same room as me! Wow—what an amazing thing. I can only hope people continue to respond to my work because that is what it’s all about, the work. The work and making people feel something—love, anger, hurt, laughter...human emotion.
I think the core of Boy Culture is no matter how scary it is to love and feel love, we must allow ourselves to go there. If we don’t, we are denying ourselves the most powerful emotion and feeling in the world.
For all friends of the movies, I will be posting a full interview with Boy Culture’s director and co-screenwriter Q. Allan Brocka on Friday, March 23, the same day the TLA Releasing film opens. Click here for my interview with Derek's co-star Jonathon Trent and here for my interview with his co-star Darryl Stephens. Click here for all my posts specifically connected to Boy Culture.