When I first moved to NYC I lived on Christopher Street, above a pet-store in Greenwich Village, just a few feet from the historic “Stonewall INN” bar. It’s a magical little cross-section of NYC, and one that played a very unique role in LGBT rights in the late 60s. The story of the Stonewall Inn is deeply rooted in the atrocity that proceeded America’s cultural awakening during that time-period. And now, just a few weeks after NYC named the bar a historical landmark, that story is coming to the big-screen.
It was announced today that Roadside Attractions will release STONEWALL, the highly-anticipated drama about the 1969 Stonewall riots in NYC that started America’s LGBT rights movement, on September 25, 2015.
The film was written by Jon Robin Baitz and directed by Roland Emmerich, the film stars Jeremy Irvine and newcomer Jonny Beauchamp, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Ron Perlman.
Emmerich, who also produced the film, says, “I was always interested and passionate about telling this important story, but I feel it has never been more timely than right now.” Less than 50 years ago, in 1969, being gay was considered a mental illness; gay people could not be employed by the government; it was illegal for gay people to congregate, and police brutality against gays went unchecked. Today, thanks to the events set in motion by the Stonewall riots, the gay rights movement continues to make incredible strides towards equality. In the past several weeks alone, the Boy Scouts of America has moved to lift its ban on gay leaders, the Pentagon will allow transgender people to serve openly in the military, and SCOTUS has declared that same-sex marriage is legal nationwide in all 50 states.
“It was the first time gay people said ‘Enough!'” explains Emmerich. “They didn’t do it with leaflets or meetings, they took beer bottles and threw them at cops. Many pivotal political moments have been born by violence. If you look at the civil rights movement, at Selma and other events of that kind, it’s always the same thing. Stonewall was the first time gay people stood up and they did it in their own way. Something that really affected me when I read about Stonewall was that when the riot police showed up in their long line, these kids formed their own long line and sang a raunchy song. That, for me, was a gay riot, a gay rebellion.”
“What struck me was that there was a story in there, which I felt had an important message – it’s the people who had the least to lose who did the fighting, not the politically active people. It was the kids that went to this club that consisted of hustlers and Scare Queens, and all kinds of people that you think would never resist the police, and they did it.” And the events they set in motion would have a profound impact on the future.
STONEWALL is a drama about a fictional young man caught up during the 1969 Stonewall riots. Danny Winters (Jeremy Irvine) is forced to leave behind friends and loved ones when he is kicked out of his parent’s home and flees to New York. Alone in Greenwich Village, homeless and destitute, he befriends a group of street kids who soon introduce him to the local watering hole The Stonewall Inn; however, this shady, mafia-run club is far from a safe-haven. As Danny and his friends experience discrimination, endure atrocities and are repeatedly harassed by the police, we see a rage begin to build. This emotion runs through Danny and the entire community of young gays, lesbians and drag queens who populate the Stonewall Inn and erupts in a storm of anger. With the toss of a single brick, a riot ensues and a crusade for equality is born.
Written by Jon Robin Baitz (“Brothers & Sisters” creator/writer), STONEWALL is produced by Roland Emmerich (one of Hollywood’s premier filmmakers, currently filming Independence Day: Resurgence, the follow-up to the worldwide smash), Michael Fossat, Marc Frydman, and Carsten Lorenz; and executive producers are Kirstin Winkler, Adam Press and Michael Roban. The film stars Jeremy Irvine (War Horse), Jonny Beauchamp (“Penny Dreadful”), Caleb Landry Jones (X-Men: First Class), Joey King (White House Down) up-and-comers Karl Glusman, Vlademir Alexis, and Alexandre Nachi as well as veteran actor Matt Craven, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Match Point, “The Tudors”) and Ron Perlman (Hellboy.)
The STONEWALL creative team includes Director of Photography, Markus Förderer; Production Designer, Michelle Laliberté; Editor Adam Wolfe; and Costume Designer, Simonetta Mariano.
The film was shot in and around Montreal, including Lachine and Howick, Quebec. Roland Emmerich and his production team re-created “the village” in Manhattan circa 1969 in a former train repair facility in Montreal. The elaborate set included the detailed, authentic recreation of the interior and exterior of the Stonewall Inn and the entire Christopher Street neighborhood. It also featured the largest printed backdrop ever created which added in the final element of the skyline for both daytime and nighttime shots. During the filming of the riot scenes with over 500 extras in period costumes and the detailed recreation of the neighborhood, stepping onto the set was like taking a time machine back to New York City in the late 60’s.