One person’s journey is at the heart of ‘TransAmerica’

By |2018-01-15T16:13:44-05:00January 19th, 2005|Entertainment|

BLOOMFIELD HILLS – Inspiration, we’re told, can come at any time from anywhere and from any source. Just act writer/director Duncan Tucker whose much-anticipated movie, “Transamerica,” opens locally next week.
“A woman who I knew a little bit in L.A. told me one evening what she had under her dress,” recalled Tucker, who was in town last month to talk about his new film. “I had no idea she was transgendered at all. And when she told me some of the stories about her life, a light bulb went off.”
Intrigued, Tucker immersed himself in research. He read all the literature he could find on transexuality, and he met a number of trans people. “It was all sort of synchronicity after that,” he said.
The result – his feature film debut – has been garnering worldwide praise ever since it hit the film festival circuit earlier this year.
What’s subversive about the movie, Tucker believes, is that its main character is a transexual woman, but the subject is not transexuality. “It’s about family. It’s about growing up and [accepting] yourself [for] whoever you are. All of us feel different and alone at some point – even the straightest, most popular person. It’s a universal feeling and a universal journey. Bree’s journey as a transwoman is just magnified, probably.”
In “Transamerica,” Tucker explores one person’s transition from male to female in a world uncomfortable with transgender issues. Samantha Claire Osborne – Bree for short – lives a very lonely life, afraid that her secret will be discovered. Her struggle takes a surprising turn one week before her final sexual reassignment surgery when she learns that a single frisky night while in college resulted in the birth of a heretofore unknown son. She wants no part of him, of course, but her therapist disagrees. So before Bree can move forward with her life, she must first resolve her past.
The result is a journey – and a road trip – that changes both their lives.
“I sometimes call this ‘The Lord of the Rings: A Transexual Movie,'” said Tucker, a fan of fantasy novels and epic fantasy journeys. “Both Bree and Frodo had to go on an epic journey full of twists and turns and surprises to get rid of something they don’t want to have – a burden they don’t want: the ring or the son. Along the way she meets monsters and dragons, and she meets a charming prince and makes friends. And by the end, she’s a different person than she was at the beginning. So hopefully, it’s just really good entertainment.”
For Tucker, it was a journey that almost didn’t happen. “Nobody wanted to invest in this movie; nobody thought it was castable. They thought if it WAS castable, it needed to be a guy in a dress – which I was completely not interested in. Transwomen, after they’ve taken hormone therapy for two years, not to mention facial reconstruction surgeries, don’t look like guys in dresses. They just don’t. I wanted to honor where this character was going and not mire her in what she left behind.”
Eventually the funding came together, thanks to credit card debt and the kindness of family and friends. And despite a producer’s prediction that nobody “you’ve ever heard of” would agree to be in the film, Tucker got his first-choice cast, including Felicity Huffman, whose work Tucker had known from her stage work in New York. “She’s 200 percent committed to this,” Tucker said.
With several “best movie” and “best actor” awards already under its belt, the writer/director is pleased with the reaction “Transamerica” is generating. “It’s just been a fairy tale. What really delights me is the audiences we’ve shown it to – largely mainstream festivals with middle-aged straight couples – really understand what it’s about, and that it’s something they can relate to.”
Transgender people, too, appreciate the movie. “The people I meet have all been thrilled to see this story told,” he said. “Again, because it’s a story about a person who happens to be trans, instead of just another issue movie.
“But God knows how it will play in the red states!”

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