'There I was up on the screen snogging a guy'

Despite mainstream success directing the blockbuster American Pie, Chris Weitz still hankered after Indie Cred. Which is how he ended up the love object in a gay stalker movie
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The Independent Culture

In the days preceding the release of Chuck and Buck, I would often wonder how I had left the safety of the director's chair and stepped in front of the camera, caught in its glassy eye and eventually spat out on the big screen, my face twenty feet high, making out with another guy.

In the days preceding the release of Chuck and Buck, I would often wonder how I had left the safety of the director's chair and stepped in front of the camera, caught in its glassy eye and eventually spat out on the big screen, my face twenty feet high, making out with another guy.

Occasionally, these reflections would be accompanied by the image of my father keeling over in his chair, his heart stopped on the spot by The Scene.

The Scene, as I had come to think of it, involved my character's capitulation to his same-sex stalker, ably and frighteningly played by the film's screenwriter, Mike White, who took Best Actor honours at the Deauville Film Festival. It could hardly be called graphic; it was, if anything, sentimental and romantic, but there it was, all the same; I was snogging a guy, something that had never occurred in my everyday life, let alone been projected on a large screen.

The fact that The Scene makes most people, not to mention me, squirm with discomfort is, perhaps, a testament to how far we have to go politically and socially. Kneejerk liberal as I have always been, I have felt guilty about even referring to my own misgivings; but misgivings they were. How on earth had I ended up in, as it were, this position?

A year and a half ago, my brother and I had just finished editing American Pie, which had yet to be released in the States. Before that, we had written Antz, an eccentric effort that, to our surprise, had succeeded financially. In relatively short order, we had found ourselves carried along in the mainstream, struggling to make palatable popular entertainment, while ostensibly serving large corporate interests.

We were ripe, in other words, for the appeal of Indie Cred. It took the form of a voicemail from my brother's buddy Miguel Arteta, who had directed Star Maps, a funny and extraordinarily twisted film about a Mexican kid in L.A. getting pimped out by his father while trying to make it as an actor.

Would I like to act in a movie he was directing? Hell, yes. Now, I hasten to explain that it was a spirit of personal vanity, not artistic endeavour, that inspired me. I correctly assumed that this was the only time someone would offer me a part in a movie. Sure, I could put myself in my own film, but I'm not that stupid. This was my only shot. Besides, Miguel's message implied it was no big deal, a cameo, maybe, in a ten minute short. What the hell. I returned his call. "As long as I don't have to have anal sex on screen," I remember saying on his machine, "I'm your man".

Then the script arrived.

As it turned out, I had agreed, sight unseen, to playing a slick, emotionally constipated music executive, stalked by a childhood friend. My first impression, honed by years of writing comedies, was that I didn't get any of the jokes. My brother Paul, meanwhile, had been offered the plum role of Sam, the imbecile misogynist actor who is cast to play me in Hank and Frank, the transparent play-within-a-movie that Buck, that aforementioned troubled manchild, mounts in an effort to snare me. As for my part, it seemed to involve a lot of standing around looking aggrieved. My heart sank as I began to realize that I had been cast, not only because the price was right, (free of charge) but because Miguel saw me as the perfect straight man, in more ways than one. When I pressed him on it he would plead Cassavetes, Godard, casting from the gut, but really he thought I was just the slick guy to pull this one off.

And there it was - page 89 or thereabouts, The Scene. "Buck's expression is full of relief. He gets up and sits next to Charlie. After a moment, they kiss". Harmless enough words, but they had me up all night in a cold sweat, imagining my grandmother crying, my boon companions looking at me funny at the pub. What on earth had I gotten myself into? In the morning I'd call Miguel and tell him it was all a big mistake.

By morning, I felt differently. I had always been brought up to treat differences in sexual orientation as insignificant. I could talk the talk - could I walk the walk? Ironically, deciding to do the part became a matter of machismo - if I was ready to give over my beliefs because of fear of stepping 'into somebody else's shoes, or being thought of differently, then I'd be a 'real pussy. Fine. I'd kiss the guy. Roll camera.

The funny thing is that, in the event, I found my love scene with Buck a walk in the park next to the one I played with Beth Colt, the woman playing my fiancee. Beth was married, and crossing that shadow line of morality, laying hands on somebody's wife, was far more disturbing to me than a little faux snoggage with Mike White. I suppose at some level I had been worried that I might find out something about myself that would be difficult to come to terms with; but all I discovered is that men should shave if they're intending to make out with anybody; Mike's stubble was extremely irritating.

When the film was in the can (or rather, in the cassette box - Chuck and Buck was shot on video) I knew the satisfaction of having faced up to my fears. And the best thing was, I knew that nobody, NOBODY was going to release this freaky little stalker romance, made on DV for a shoestring.

By the end of Sundance, Artisan, the company that released the Blair Witch Project, had acquired Chuck and Buck, in order to release it in twenty five cities throughout the US. Though it was by no means a major studio release, it was a guarantee that everyone I had ever known would get a shot at seeing me do The Scene, my grandmother included.

So far, everyone has been quite supportive. My father not only survived the experience without developing an aneurysm, he claims to be proud of me. My grandmother says that she's satisfied, since my character gets married in the end. My friends will still drink with me. I run into Mike White every now and again, and we have stilted, if friendly, conversations. Life is back to normal, whatever that is. But I still can't watch The Scene without covering my eyes. It's not that I have a problem with the content. I'm just not happy with the haircut they gave me.