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Video Rewind Interview: Duane Boutte from Stonewall
June 22, 1969 was a very busy day when it came to news.
First came Judy Garland's death and later that night the famous Stonewall Inn riots started signifying the beginning the Gay Rights movement.
As with many important historical events, it's no wonder the events leading up to the rioting would be chronicled in the much underrated Stonewall.
Why it didn't become an instant classic is anyone's guess, but for Duane Boutte, who played the role of Bostonia, "it was a real life changing movie to be a part of.
"I think what I appreciate most is how important the film is and how lucky and fortunate I was to have been a part of it. It's something that'll be pulled out of archives and actually viewed for as long as I can see. I had really excellent writing for Bostonia so I was very lucky with that. It was a good experience in that things were going well and I wasn't really sure how well they were going, but I would get told by Nigel (Finch, the director) who was very open and generous."
While the story is told through the character of La Miranda (Guillermo Diaz) it's really a love story of the time. La Miranda meets and falls in love with Matty Dean (Fred Weller) and the relationship between Bostonia and the closeted owner of the bar Bruce MacVittie (Vinnie).
Boutte praises the relationships he had with Finch and MacVittie, since he gained more and more confidence as they shot the film.
"We (MacVittie) became good friends and spent a lot of time alone (outside of rehearsals) together. That was really the first time I had had that experience since it was my first film and we were playing partners. In theater you don't really have that need to hang out with someone who's playing your husband or wife. Especially if you're going to be that intimate and we shot more scenes which were more intimate than what is in the film."
But it was the luck of an audition that he made a "bold commitment" of giving them a little bit of a visual on which to build the character. At the callback he went a little further and then a little further for the last callback. He also says it was an odd audition since he met director Finch while he was sick in bed. (Sadly, the director passed away about a month after filming was completed but was able to see an edited rough cut of the movie in sequence).
Bostonia acts as the den mother to the other drag queens and guides each gently "into the life."
However, digging back into his historical mind, Boutte came up with a past life of who Bostonia was. He felt that she had many struggles in life, had it hard growing up, she couldn't take it anymore and refused to compromise.
"That was a very bold thing to do in 1969 and it would have been easier for her lover and everyone around if she did consider going for whatever treatments which would have been available at the time. It's certainly something her partner would have wanted (a sex change) for her and to make life easier for him. He wanted to be treated as a normal couple in some way and she still had her male genitalia, liked it and she was honest with who she was. Just very bold and brave."
As with any actor at times it's difficult to transition themselves into the character they'll be playing on screen. Boutte didn't imagine he'd be spending a lot of time in make-up getting ready every morning for the camera, shaving both his arms and legs daily and wearing the nails to bed each night and leaving them on for a few days and trying to get through your daily activities with them on (even when not filming).
"Walking in heels I don't feel I mastered," he laughs. "When I had my last day on the set and I came home and was all excited and celebrating, I was dancing around the apartment and I found myself walking, not in heels, the way I was supposed to and then it hit me 'oh, my god, that's it. That's what it it's supposed to feel like.'"
So he put on a pair of the rehearsal heels and thought "oh damn! I wanted to go back and reshoot scenes and thought of different things that I could have done with Bostonia."
Boutte can also be seen in You Belong to Me as Robert, but gets more exposure as a friend of Stanford Blatch (Willie Garson) in the first season finale of "Sex and the City" as Allanne, the Fallen Angel bottle designer.