Audiences eager to escape summer’s real-life heat for some on-screen sizzle should look no further than “Red, White & Royal Blue,” premiering Friday on Amazon Prime Video.
The film adaptation of Casey McQuiston’s 2019 novel follows a transcontinental romance between Alex Claremont-Diaz (played by Taylor Zakhar Perez), the son of the first female U.S. president, and Henry (Nicholas Galitzine), a British prince. It’s also surprisingly titillating, with its handsome protagonists expressing their pent-up passion for one another in hotel suites and the tack room at a polo match, among other glitzy locales.
Writer-director Matthew López has questioned whether those steamy scenes were enough to warrant the queer-themed romantic comedy’s R-rating. In an interview with HuffPost, however, he said he never considered making a more chaste film.
“What’s most important to me is that we understand Alex and Henry as a couple, in part through their sexual relationship,” said López, who co-wrote the film’s screenplay with Ted Malawer. “Anybody who ignored their great sexual desire would be missing a huge part of what makes the book special, and what makes it so unapologetically queer.”
He went on to note: “Having spent my life watching what approximated for queer sex in films, I wanted to make sure that viewers understood unambiguously what was going on.”
At the start of “Red, White & Royal Blue,” Alex and Henry are bitter rivals. After an altercation at a royal wedding makes international headlines, the two men are coerced by their handlers to attempt a truce.
Over time, Alex and Henry forge an unlikely friendship that blossoms into a full-blown love affair. Still, the pair fear the political repercussions their respective families will face if their romance is made public.
“Red, White & Royal Blue” marks López’s feature directorial debut. The Florida native is beloved by Broadway audiences for his Tony-winning 2019 play “The Inheritance,” which depicted a group of gay men grappling with life, love and legacy in New York 20 years after the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Given the near-universal acclaim McQuiston’s novel has received, expectations for “Red, White & Royal Blue” are high. Last month, the book shot to the top of the bestseller lists once again amid early buzz for the movie.
As a big fan of the novel, López enthusiastically pursued the opportunity to adapt it for the screen. Still, he didn’t feel any undue pressure to fulfill anyone’s vision for the film but his own.
“The best thing I could do for fans of the book is to temporarily forget that they were there,” he said. As for the film’s cast, he added: “Seeing these two young, exciting, vibrant actors come together at this specific time in their careers, in service of two very beloved characters, is pretty special. I think it’s a one-in-a-million shot that we got these two and that they worked so well together. We never took that for granted.”
“Red, White & Royal Blue” is the first in a series of film and television projects López is developing through Amazon Studios. He’s also attached to a remake of the 1992 romantic drama “The Bodyguard,” which starred Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston.
Watch a scene from “Red, White & Royal Blue” below.
His theatrical career has reached new heights, too. Most recently, he teamed up with Amber Ruffin to adapt the classic 1959 film “Some Like It Hot” for Broadway. The pair added numerous characters of color to the cast and amped up a queer subplot that had only been alluded to in the original. The musical went on to win four Tony Awards in June.
Though López didn’t expect to be such a leader in making diverse, queer-inclusive storytelling for the stage and screen, it’s a role he’s happy to fill.
“I wish I could say I had a grand plan for my career and my life ― I don’t,” he said. “I’m drawn to characters who haven’t had a chance to have their stories told. A lot of the things I do, I do because I haven’t seen them. But I want to see them.”