Banned in Salt Lake City, ‘Latter Days wins awards at film festivals nationwide
Gay Mormons are hot.
First there’s Steven Fales’ one-man show, “X’d: Confessions of a Mormon Boy,” in which Fales details his excommunication from the Mormon Church and his struggle with his homosexuality. The play is on a nationwide tour.
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Then there’s “Angels in America,” in which one of the main characters is a devout Mormon who struggles with his homosexuality. Now there’s “Latter Days,” in which a Mormon missionary — yep, you guessed it — struggles with his homosexuality.
“I think there’s a mini-zeitgeist going on,” said C. Jay Cox, the writer and director of “Latter Days.” “It’s interesting that people are talking about it.”
“Latter Days” centers on Aaron Davis, a young man who leaves his home for the first time to fulfill his religious obligation and be a missionary for two years. While in L.A. he meets Christian, who makes a bet with his friends that he can bed one of the good-looking Mormon missionaries in the apartment complex and sets his sights on Aaron.
But neither expects the relationship to go as far as it does. Cox, who wrote the screenplay for the movie “Sweet Home Alabama,” brings a unique perspective to “Latter Days.” He was raised Mormon, as were the last five generations of his family. “After a while it becomes an ethnicity,” he said.
And Cox also struggled to come to terms with his homosexuality. “For a long time, the Mormon Church took the stance that there are no gay Mormons,” he said. “I think that there are a lot of us who felt disenfranchised.” While the film is not autobiographical, Cox said, the film does reflect some of his own experiences. Cox was a missionary, just like Aaron in “Latter Days.
In fact, Cox got the idea for “Latter Days” when he came across some photos of himself as a missionary. “I thought, what if I could get the person I was then and the person I had become in the same room? What would they say to each other?”
Cox said these days, his own relationship with his family depends on each family member’s involvement with the Mormon Church. “Some of them are pretty uncomfortable with me and some of them are very cool. I think some of them will see the film. I don’t know about all of them.”
Of course if any of Cox’s Salt Lake City relatives will have to go elsewhere or wait for the DVD in order to see “Latter Days.” The city’s Madstone Theaters pulled the film from the schedule two weeks before its release. While executives at “Latter Days” distribution company, TLA, say Madstone caved into pressure from conservative groups, officials at Madstone say the film was pulled because it lacked cinematic merit.
In “Latter Days,” the two main characters represent Cox at different times in his life. Aaron, played by Steve Sandvoss, is the young Mormon missionary struggling with his growing awareness of his homosexuality. Christian, played by Wes Ramsey, is the L.A. party boy, sweet, but eager to bed any perspective conquest who comes along.
One of the most heart-wrenching scenes in “Latter Days” is the one that reveals how Aaron’s parents treat him when they discover he’s been involved in homosexual acts. His parents barely tolerate him and are disgraced by him.
Sandvoss understands Aaron’s religious background. He was raised in a religious household and said there have been times when he attended church six times a week. “I didn’t have to fly to Salt Lake to understand the dynamics of a family like that,” he said.
Ramsey said that while he drew on his own life to make Christian believable, he also looked to the lives of his friends. “Christian is an interesting person.” he said. “He fascinated me from the very beginning because he is very much seen as one thing at first and then you realize there’s much more to it than that.”
The two actors, who are straight, had no trepidation about playing gay roles. “I was excited from the very beginning because I realized it’s a wonderful story and it’s challenging,” Ramsey said. “I was seduced by the fact that I would get to do something I hadn’t done before.”
Sandvoss said he, too, feels that the film is a challenge. “I felt like it was a miracle that I got the role,” he said. “It’s an incredible role, really rich. If I hadn’t gotten a great vibe from C. Jay, if it hadn’t felt like we really connected, I might have felt differently. But there was an immediate trust.”
Latter Days also stars Jacqueline Bisset and Mary Kay Place.
“Latter Days,” has won awards from gay film festivals in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Seattle. “Latter Days opens Friday, Houston’s Angelika Film Center.