A Tale of Two Movies Named "Stonewall"
In September of this year the movie Stonewall opened amid controversy, poor reviews and very minimal box office (grossing less than $200,000). A generation earlier another movie called Stonewall was released in 1996 (poster, near right) that, curiously, was never mentioned in articles about this year's movie. Both were fictionalized accounts of real-life events that revolved around a young, white Midwestern boy, new to New York, who ends up participating in the Stonewall riot alongside new-found friends, who were largely transgendered or drag queens. Each film also had gay directors. The earlier Stonewall grossed $616,000, or $1.2 million adjusted for inflation, six times greater than Stonewall 2015. Additionally, Rotten Tomatoes' score for the 1996 version was 63% while this year's scored an abysmal 9%.
What I remember most about the first Stonewall was its opening, with three draq queens lip-synching to the '60s song "Boy From New York City"; also, there was a dramatic suicide later in the film. (And one of the extras in a protest scene was someone I had a few dates with.)
Differences between the two movies? The earlier one was shot on location while this year's was shot in Montreal due to cost considerations (but it still cost $20 million to make). This year's was steeped in controversy because, in the hyper-politically correct era we live in, its characters didn't represent exactly the ethnic mix that was found at Stonewall in 1969. The 1996 movie, however, had no backlash that I can recall. My issue was that the buffed physique of the lead misrepresented the non-gym physiques of gay men of the '60s.
One of the main characters of the '96 movie, La Miranda, was 20-year-old Guillermo Diaz, now known for his role on ABC's Scandal. La Miranda was a gay man who defiantly walked around in drag, and who Matty Dean fell in love with. Another known character actor was Luis Guzman, who played a bartender at Stonewall. The two best-known actors in Stonewall 2015 were Johnathan Rhys Meyers and Ron Perlman.