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‘Latter Days’ opens

By |2004-04-01T09:00:00-05:00April 1st, 2004|Uncategorized|

By Paul Harris


Left to right: Aaron (Steve Sandvoss) and Ryder (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) explain the mission of the Church of Latter Day Saints in C. Jay Cox’s “Latter Days.” Photo credit: Carl Bartels.

Left to right: Christian (Wes Ramsey) shares his electronic diary with Lila (Jacqueline Bisset) while Julie (Rebekah Jordan) knows works needs to be done in C. Jay Cox’s “Latter Days.” Photo credit: Carl Bartels.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Ryder, Aaron’s fellow Mormon missionary in C. Jay Cox’s “Latter Days.” Photo credit: Carl Bartels.

Opening April 2 at the Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak is “Latter Days,” a new movie written and directed by C. Jay Cox. Up until now Cox is better known for having written “Sweet Home Alabama” which starred Reese Witherspoon and holds the record as the highest grossing opening weekend for a romantic comedy and the biggest September opening ever. His new opus though was made for less than $1 million and dealt with the complex subject of a two gay men – one a Mormon, the other something of a sexual predator – trying to have a relationship.
Set in Los Angeles, the movie stars two unknowns – Wesley Ramsey and Steve Sandvoss. Ramsey plays Christian, a waiter who wears the skimpy shorts while Sandvoss portrays Aaron, the buttoned-down – in every sense – Mormon who, with three colleagues, moves into another apartment in the same complex. If the plot may seem a little obvious, the journey to the conclusion is an interesting one.
Many Mormons who realize that they are gay have a terrible time coming to acknowledge and accept that fact. Suicide is not that uncommon. (Utah has one of the highest male suicide rates in the whole of the U.S.) Yet the lessons to be learned in this movie are not all one way. When he meets Aaron, his Mormon neighbor, Christian, the somewhat vacuous party-boy, comes to realize that life can be about more than a series of sexual rendezvous.
The movie is also fortunate in having a good supporting cast – certainly much better than the average Independent lowish budget movie. Playing the mother of the Mormon is the excellent Mary Kay Place best known for her work on “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” while the restaurant owner where Christian works, “Lila’s,” is played by the still beautiful Jacqueline Bisset who has a film career going back almost forty years.
C. Jay Cox described directing his first feature as “the best thing that I have ever done,” and that the experience had only whetted his appetite to carry on directing. He shot the movie in 24 days – in other words, over 4 minutes of the movie that one sees on the screen was shot every day – an extraordinary rate. He described making an Independent movie with a small budget as “a ‘trade off’ for not having someone looking over the shoulder all the time.”
He finished the first draft of the movie at Thanksgiving 1999 and they finished shooting it at Thanksgiving 2002. Last year the movie was seen at various film festivals. Being already a ‘known quantity’ the film company, ‘Funny Boy” were able to negotiate an advantageous ‘first look’ deal with TLA Releasing who went on to distribute the movie.
Being the director of a movie is rather like being the captain of a ship. The crew contained a total of about 80 people. I asked him if he felt intimidated at all by having so many people working for him on a project. He told me that he had “never been so in love with so many people at one time” and that he had beginners luck in having such an amazing crew.
C. Jay is himself a former Mormon. He described the process of having given up on organized religion as having “opened me up to spirituality” although he doesn’t adhere to any particular religion today. While the film is not total fiction (he was a missionary) the story is not autobiographical. Opinion within his family has been mixed. Some family members who have seen it have been supportive of the movie while other family members were appalled. Interestingly the film was denied a screening at a movie house in Salt Lake City.
His next project is going to be very different. He is doing a re-write of an action, romantic comedy movie which, so long as New Line Cinema likes it, he will go on to direct.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.