HOLLYWOOD—Anyone remember Cruising? The William Friedkin-directed, Al Pacino-starring murder mystery set in New York City's gay S/M bar scene circa 1979? You remember: the movie that, while still shooting, inspired protests by several gay rights groups who feared that Friedkin would screw up its depictions of gay characters, as Hollywood had done to pretty much every other gay character it had portrayed since the dawn of cinema? Yeah, that Cruising.
Turns out, though, that the novel by Gerald Walker upon which the Friedkin movie was based had a lot more gay sex action than theater attendees ever saw, largely because the Motion Picture Assn. of America (MPAA) forced Friedkin to cut about 40 minutes of it in order to change the movie's rating from X to R—and now actor/writer/director James Franco has teamed with gay art-porn director Travis Mathews to recreate that lost footage.
Kyle Buchanan of Vulture.com has called Franco "Hollywood's ultimate homophile," in part because of the self-directed Franco starrer The Broken Tower, where the young star "fellates an erect, prosthetic penis," so Franco's street cred was intact enough to convince Mathews, whose main claim to fame is the award-nominated "gay art-porn" short I Want Your Love (which he expanded into a full-length film, produced by adult VOD provider NakedSword.com, and released this year), to partner on James Franco's Cruising.
"According to Mathews, Franco wanted to update [Cruising], but he couldn't get the right," reported Bryce J. Renninger for Vulture.com. "As Mathews' gay art porn/drama I Want Your Love was getting press attention, Franco's people emailed Mathews to ask him to talk about the film. Within 24 hours, they were talking."
"He knew he wanted real gay sex in it," [Mathews] said. "His people went looking for a filmmaker who had filmed real gay sex, and I suspect someone who would complement his vision. We talked about why we would be interested in still looking at this film. We talked about his interest in the film and his interest more broadly in so many gay-themed stories and visionaries. He's worked with so many in front of and behind the cameras over the years."
In the Vulture article, Mathews noted that Friedkin had wanted to release a 30th anniversary edition of the film with the cut footage restored, but Warner Bros. told him that the excised material had been destroyed, and Mathews speculated, "It's possible those 40 minutes implicate Pacino's character in the gay S&M culture. That was the place we started from as a launching point: James Franco's version of those lost 40 minutes. ... If you forget about [Cruising's] whole murder mystery backstory and you just look at the bar scenes, I think it's quite an insightful, important document of an important subculture, right before AIDS hits, in 1979 New York."
Turns out Mathews' brief work in porn stood him in good stead: He shot James Franco's Cruising in two days, and had the initial cut to Franco within two months. The movie is expected to be released in early 2013.
Pictured: James Franco shooting James Franco's Cruising.