On The Avenue

Movie Proves It’s OK to Be a Freak Show

by Kelly Laffey Photographed by Paul Bruinooge/PatrickMcMullan.com
Thursday, January 11, 2018

On Wednesday evening, movie goers let their freak flag fly at the New York premiere of Freak Show, hosted by Cinema Society and Bluemercury. Adapted from a novel by James St. James, Trudie Styler’s directorial debut tells the story of Billy Bloom, a teenager who decides to run for homecoming queen at his ultraconservative high school as a way to combat bullying and prejudices.

“It was a really heartwarming and uplifting [project],” said Styler, who was originally slated to produce the film though Drew Barrymore’s Flower Films company. When the movie found itself without a director, she jumped at the chance to take over. “It’s a movie that speaks about the importance of being the person that you are.”

St. James, a former New York City Club Kid, wrote the young adult novel in 2008, but many of the actors commented on the timely release of the film, as its themes are only now being addressed on such a large scale.

“The movie is about embracing your own individuality. It’s about empathy,” said Ian Nelson, who plays the popular high school quarterback who ultimately befriends Billy. “It’s about anti-bullying. It’s about self-acceptance. It’s about breaking gender norms and all these important themes—and it’s directed by a fantastic female director,” said actress AnnaSophia Robb.

True to its message, Freak Show has partnered with Stomp Out Bullying to show the film to high school students across the country. “The wonderful thing about teenagers is that they’re at that age where you can make things right as long as you [give them the] information,” said Styler.

Also in attendance were Sting and Shaggy, who collaborated on the new song “Don’t Make Me Wait.” “I played [Sting] a track and he automatically said, ‘hey, that’s a hit. Let’s do it.’ And that morphed into a project,” said Shaggy of how the partnership came about. The two recently returned from playing a charity concert in Jamaica. “I owe a lot to Jamaica,” said Sting, who wrote “Every Breath You Take” there.

As the curtains came up for the film, they came down for Landmark Sunshine Cinema, the iconic Lower East Side theater that hosted the event. Freak Show was its last premiere, and Sunshine is slated to screen its last movie on January 21. The century-old building will be demolished and turned into a mixed-use development.

An after-party at PUBLIC Arts at PUBLIC Hotel followed, where guests drank Qui tequila cocktails and were treated to a performance by Tony-award winner Lena Hall and John Cameron Mitchell. As they left the stage, St. James introduced several of his Club Kid friends, proving that, if this is what it means to be a Freak Show, then it sure is fun.

Other guests at the premiere included Celia Weston, Larry Pine, John McEnroe; PJ Clifton (screenplay); producers Celine Rattray, Bryan Rabin; executive producers Jenny Halper, Samantha Perelman, Bobby Sager; Jonathan Sehring (President, IFC Films), Hugh & Deborra-Lee Jackman, Grace Hightower De Niro, Martha Stewart, Arianna Huffington, Donna Karan, Padma Lakshmi, Glenda Bailey, Patty Smyth, Sandra Lee, Theodora Richards, Gina Gershon, Griffin Dunne, Dianna Agron, Dean Winters, Condola Rashad, Erich Bergen (Madam Secretary), Alysia Reiner & David Alan Basche, Sam Clemmett (about to debut as Harry Potter on Broadway), Dan Abrams, Thomas Roberts (MSNBC), Cynthia Rowley, Valerie Simpson, Katie Lee, Peter Cincotti, Shaggy, Eliot Sumner, Jill Rappaport (The Today Show), Simon Kirke, Seth Herzog (Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon), Maggie Betts, Sante D’Orazio, Gilles Mendel, Frederique Van Der Wal, Amy Sacco, Susanne Bartsch, Daniel Benedict, Ashley Haas, Alex Lundqvist, Jennifer Creel, Gretta Monahan & Ricky Paull Goldin, Bruce Cohen, Jamie Cepero, Christian Campbell & America Olivo, Antoine Verglas, Bluemercury Founder & COO Barry Beck and Cinema Society founder Andrew Saffir.


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