The film adaptation of the celebrated coming-of-age, drag extravaganza of a musical “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” is finally set for release after a planned theatrical run was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The film, led by newcomer Max Harwood in the titular role, is set for a September 17 release on Amazon, but audiences got their first look at LGBTQ film festival OutFest Los Angeles earlier this month.
The film and original play are based on the 2011 documentary “Jamie: Drag Queen at 16,” which chronicles the journey of the real-life Jamie Campbell embracing his love of drag and attending his high school prom in full drag regalia. The film pays tribute to its subjects with footage of Jamie and his loving mother Margaret playing over the end credits.
Reviews have been pouring in as the public waits for their chance to see the film, with Deadline’s Pete Hammond labeling it a “junior ‘Kinky Boots'” and The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney praising “Jamie for telling an LGBTQ story where “coming out isn’t a factor.”
“Jamie has been out and proud for some time, and he responds to the taunts of obnoxious class smartass Dean (Samuel Bottomley) at school by basically saying, ‘Yeah, I’m gay, what of it,'” Rooney wrote.
Life Imitating Art
Harwood has drawn an exceptional amount of praise for his film debut. The LGBTQ actor’s real-life story full of performing dreams mirrors Jamie to an intriguing extent, which, according to Hammond, comes through in his portrayal of the character. “Harwood never had acted before landing this plum gig, and he is thoroughly engaging, confident in his singing and fledgling showmanship and clearly understanding the core of this kid,” Hammond noted.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t like playing football. I didn’t like getting muddy. I liked to dress up, and act and dance and sing,” Harwood told Attitude. “I was doing things that were more typically effeminate and I feel like, at the time, growing up, as an effeminate boy, there are opinions and thought that people put on you. I definitely felt othered, in that sense.”
Harwood’s feelings of ostracization line up squarely with the experiences Jamie goes through in his journey of self-identity through the glamour of drag. Whether it be Jamie’s homophobic father or teacher who tries to force cultural gender norms upon him, key obstacles to Jamie’s self-actualization feel all too close to Harwood’s own experiences, and, frankly, those of so many others within LGBTQ circles.
But having that in his past helped Harwood embrace Jamie’s empowering message. “Jamie is someone who knows who he is, and he’s waiting for everyone else to catch up and get on board,” Harwood said. “I think the whole play isn’t Jamie going, ‘Oh, do I want to be a drag queen? Do I want to do this?’ Jamie knows. he wants to be a drag queen. He is gay.”
“I also feel like I’m at a stage in my life that I know who I am and that I know what I want,” he added. “I was navigating, not to prove to myself, but to convince my parents and my friends that I actually could do this.”
Stage To Screen
A huge part of maintaining the heart of the original stage production through the adaptation process was keeping the production’s creative nucleus intact and involved. Director Jonathan Butterell and writer Tom MacRae reprise their roles despite never working in movies before. Singer-songwriter and the original musical’s composer Dan Gillespie Sells also returns, teaming up with Oscar-winning composer Anne Dudley on the film’s score.
Producers Peter Carlton and Mark Herbert, co-founders of Warp Films, actually turned down funding from certain companies in order to keep the musical’s core at the forefront of Jamie’s jump to the silver screen. “What we’ve done a lot in Warp is back really talented people who’ve achieved in one area into another,” Carlton told Variety.
To that end, the team also made sure to get Campbell involved in the film as well. His emotion toward the project exuded both on set and during a special preview of the film at the Edinburgh Film Festival earlier this month. “I just love that there’s a big show out there that has got someone who’s camp, feminine and flamboyant fronting it,” Campbell said in Edinburgh. “They’re the star of the show.”
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie: Previously on Towleroad
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Image courtesy of 2oth Century Pictures