Gay Times October 10 - Issue 385
Christopher and His Kind
Nearly 80 years since he left Germany’s capital, Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin life has been immortalised in a BBC movie. Darren Scott loses himself in all things Isherwood related as he goes behind the scenes on the most important gay film you’ll see all year.
More from Gay Times October 10 - Issue 385
Timekeeping has never been my strong point. I’m normally either too late (usually) or too early. But when I arranged to meet at 10am at a bar in Belfast I didn’t expect to turn the corner of Donegall Street and be in 1931 Germany.
Neither, apparently, did the hotel residents who were gaping out their windows at huge swastikas draped from every building. Surely the government hadn’t got THAT bad overnight…
Obviously it’s not a fascist regime or (sadly) some nifty time travel on our part, but rather filming on the BBC movie about the life of gay author Christopher Isherwood, Christopher and His Kind, based on the book of the same name, which depicts Isherwood’s years in pre-war Berlin.
Matt Smith’s in the title role – you might have heard of him – and it’s full-on period costume up and down the street, which is being dirtied to cover those pesky modern-day markings. The detail is quite incredible.
Across the road Matt pops out of a building, spots GT and bounds over.
“Hello! I thought you’d be sniffing around somewhere!” he beams.
His hair is slicked back, his skin’s looking great and period clothing suits him sir. Damn him! He dashes off for filming as extras scuttle around us. “You’re not in costume,” one says. “Do we keep going?” asks another. It’s a tad French and Saunders.
Nearby there are tourists posing for photos with Nazi’s.
It’s no irony that (we’re told) an ad was placed in local press for ‘beautiful young men’ to play the Nazi’s. And in those trousers we’re not going to hide the fact that we’re blatantly eyeing up their asses, which makes the publicist laugh.
“Clear back,” we’re told. “You don’t want to get lost in 1930’s Berlin.”
Oops. The Nazi’s catch us perving. We ask for a picture. “It’ll cost you.” Hot. They pose in the back of a lorry. Once the cameras are off they start dancing somewhat effeminately. What would Hitler say?
I can barely contain my excitement, it’s like Hollywood movie magic. A very simple scene, where Christopher leaves his apartment and crosses the street, takes ages to film.
We sneak into production and seeing it on a monitor it looks incredible. The sun glares, framing Matt against billowing Nazi flags.
“That’s it! That’s the shot” the producer, Geoffrey Sax, shouts.
Matt leans in, watching the scene. I notice the gold link bracelet Caspar gives Isherwood in the film.
“That’s fabulous,” Matt grins, clapping his hands and leaping back into action. “We’ve actually got the sun,” he says and starts singing. “The sun’ll come out for Hitler…”
Cones have been put up, the street is closed but there’s still a Toyota parked slap bang in the middle of a shot. They have to cover it with tarpaulin and shoot around it.
We’re shown a picture of Douglas Booth as Heinz and he’s beautiful. In fact, it’s filled with boys you’re going to fall in love with.
Then we’re shown an image of Matt aged up to look in his 40s. “Still would,” slips from my mouth.
It’s all so fascinating that we literally only leave because we’ve got to fly back to London.
It’s in London a few weeks later, at a trendy members club, that a far more modern Matt Smith greets me with a massive hug. He breaks into an equally massive grin and has a mischevious glint in his eye.
“I’ve kissed lots of boys!” he declares loudly, like a naughty child.
“Young men,” the PR corrects.
Matt giggles and beams again. “Young men!” he agrees. I admit that this is one of my questions. “I bet it is! I bet it is…” he laughs.
A glorious 12 pages dedicated to the show, the man, the lot is in the new issue. and you can download it.
Words: Darren Scott. Photo credit: BBC / Mammoth Screen / Jo O’Leary