In 1995, director Beeban Kidron brought drag queens to the Hollywood stage with Extravagances and thanks to Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes.
Movies about cross-dressing like, randomly, Some like it hot by Billy Wilder made in 1959, there are a number of them. Despite everything, rare are those who manage to go beyond the comic effect caused by a man disguising himself as a woman, the most typical case although the opposite also exists, to take an interest in the world of drag queens and this very particular art. . If filmmaker John Waters made the drag queen Divine his muse from the 1960s, with films like Pink Flamingos And Female Troubleit was not until the 1990s that drag queens loom larger in the cinematic landscape.
After Paris is Burning, a documentary by Jennie Livingston released in 1991, always cited as a reference by the LGBT community, fiction cinema takes hold of the subject. At a year’s interval come out two films where drag queens occupy the foregroundthe Australian film Priscilla, Mad of the Desert by Stephan Elliott in 1994, and the American Extravagances by Beeban Kidron in 1995.
If these two road movies are similar in their plot, the story of drag queens crossing their respective countries, they did not have the same impact. There where Priscilla, Mad of the Desert became a cult film for the gay community, Extravagances has rather fallen into obliviondespite the presence of Wesley Snipes and Patrick Swayze in the cast, two stars of the 90s, one embodying the heterosexual fantasy par excellence and the other being the new face of action cinema.
Drag queens in Hollywood
Before the 1990s, drag queens were largely confined to independent or experimental cinema. In 1975, The Rocky Horror Picture Showproduced by 20th Century Fox, presents a transformist character with an ambiguous identity, a “a nice transvestite who comes from Transsexual, in Transylvania”. But this Dr. Frank-N-Furter, played by Tim Curry, is not a drag queen like Vida Boheme and Noxeema Jackson, main characters ofExtravagancesare.
With Extravagancesthe British director Beeban Kidron does not stage wacky characters like those of The Rocky Horror Picture Showbut many “real” drag queens, artists from a community still poorly represented in the cinema. ExtravagancesOr To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar in original version, was written by the playwright Douglas Carter Beane who thought of making a play of it. Eventually, the project was picked up by Amblin Entertainment, Steven Spielberg’s production company, and Universal Pictures.
Extravagances is a considerable bet for the studios. It is neither a documentary nor a short film, but a 30 million dollar production with a big cast. Beeban Kidron, who has already produced several works, notably for the BBC, is hired as a director. In an article published in the newspaper The AdvocateMitch Kohn, one of the producers employed by Amblin Entertainment at that time, would reveal that several directors refused the job before Beeban Kidron accepts it.
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Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes Played Drag Queens, and Everyone Forgot About Him