While it may not be immediately apparent in the new trailer for Hulu’s new gay rom-com, Fire Island packs a significantly impressive pedigree: none other than Jane Austen’s ur-rom-com, Pride and Prejudice, with heavy emphasis on the “pride,” of course. The new movie is the realization of a concept first imagined six years ago by producer, writer, and star of the film, Joel Kim Booster.
Booster made his first trip to Fire Island, the iconic gay resort spot off the shore of Long Island, in 2016 and brought along a copy of Austen’s 1813 comedy of manners as his beach read. It soon became a running joke that he was going to make a gay version of the story but it took a little time and an illicit substance before the concept actually became viable to Booster.
“I know it sounds so stupid: ‘You did acid on Fire Island and it changed your conception of self,’ ” Booster told EW. The experimentation did make apparent to Booster the essential elements required to fuel his own take on Austen’s work, however. “what really came into focus for me,” Booster continues, “was it being about chosen family and, specifically, my friendship with [co-star] Bowen [Yang] and the connection that we have as queer Asian men in a space that maybe isn’t made for us and overcoming that. That was really powerful for me.”
The fully realized vision tells the story of two gay best friends played by Booster (in the Elizabeth Bennet analog role) and Yang who travel to the island on vacation and become involved with two men that are also visiting the Island, Will, the Mr. Darcy stand-in, played by Conrad Ricamora and Charlie played by James Scully. Will and Charlie, both wealthy, represent the class underpinnings not only present in the novel but in the setting.
“Fire Island is oppressively white and inherently classist. I remember it was a real struggle to scrounge up the money to be able to afford to go those first years,” Booster says, “but once we got there, it was like a part of myself had been unlocked. I didn’t realize how much weight I was carrying around existing in largely heterosexual spaces.”
Bowen, speaking to Vanity Fair about the project hopes the movie can be just as affirming to other peoples’ identities, stating, “I want people — especially gay men, especially queer people — to walk away from the movie happy that they’re gay. I think that there are so many movies about the gay experience that are fraught with people who are unsure if they’re happy being gay or struggling with coming out… I want people to come away from this movie feeling the joy of our experiences and that it’s not all tragic. There are many of us out here living our lives joyfully.”