“Bottoms” / Publicity photo

New Queer Comedy, ‘Bottoms’ is an Instant Classic, Matthew Lopez Discusses New Gay Romantic Comedy, ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’

Three years ago, out writer/director Emma Seligman released her critically adored comedy, “Shiva Baby.” It had to screen largely virtually because most theaters were closed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it nonetheless caused a stir.

Now she is back with the new film, “Bottoms,” which premiered at SXSW and will be in theaters next week. As a way to lose their virginities to cheerleaders as they hit their senior year, out students PJ (“Shiva Baby” star Rachel Sennott) and Josie (“The Bear’s” Ayo Edebiri) come up with a plan to start a fight club to teach girls self-defense. It works — high school students attend, the club gets a sponsor, and two girls PJ and Josie have their eyes on are suddenly on more friendly terms with them.

Seligman and Sennott came up with the idea for this well before “Shiva Baby.” It’s a sex comedy, a high school comedy, and a buddy picture all rolled into one. It’s also a very politically incorrect work that could probably only be made as an independent feature these days.

Sennott and Edebiri — who seems to be everything these days, including two other summer movies – are perfectly matched, with Josie being the more restrained and rational of the two. There is a warmth between them, realizing they don’t quite fit in. Yet this is a comedy with layers and a rich ensemble of supporting players, especially Ruby Cruz as PJ’s friend Hazel.

It’s refreshing to have a film where characters aren’t having to deal with coming out and parents and adults who don’t understand or approve. PJ and Josie just wanna get laid, just like their horny classmates.

In the end, “Bottoms” is a queer-positive and inventive film. Comparisons to “Heathers” are fully warranted. There will be more prominent, highbrow LGBTQ films this season, but none of the others will have the sheer laughs of this one.

Based on Casey McQuiston’s internationally beloved novel, “Red, White & Royal Blue” is now a film, with out playwright Matthew Lopez making his feature film writing and directing debut. It’s about the unexpected love affair between Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez), the son of the President of the United States, and Britain’s Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine).

Lopez was eager to direct and write this film, knowing full well the book’s appeal.

“Everybody is drawn to stories that are set in seats of power and halls of power,” he said. “Buckingham Palace and the White House are two irresistible locations. I think the book does a good job of transcending that. You go behind the closed doors in these places of power but it’s about two private people. There is something very relatable about these characters despite the fact that they live lives we’ll never lead. There is something really accessible about these two whose lives are inaccessible to us.”

Lopez identifies with the character of Alex in many ways.

“I am a biracial, queer kid from the American South,” he said. “Just like Alex, my mother is white and my dad is Puerto Rican. Alex’s dad is Mexican. There is something really hopeful and idealistic about him, which is also something I might have used to be called. I saw something in me in him and I wanted to bring it into the world.”

Finding the right lead actors was tough. It took five months of looking.

“We literally [saw] hundreds of people,” Lopez said. “When Taylor and Nick came onto the scene and I saw their auditions for the first time, I saw something in them that reminded me of Henry and Alex. In my continued work with them, I found something incredibly exciting about both. They both really understood the characters and really cared about them. I got them on a Zoom together to see what kind of chemistry they had and almost instantaneously they came to life. The thing you see in the film was there and undeniable.”

“Red, White & Royal Blue” has a ring of authenticity that only a film made by a gay man can have. That was very important for Lopez.

“It’s impossible for anything I make not to be made by a queer artist, even if I am telling stories about super straight people one day,” he said. “My favorite quote is from Sonia Sotomayor. In her confirmation hearing she talked about a quote of hers that ‘a wise Latino will often come to a different conclusion about things than a straight white judge.’ She got a lot of flak for that from many people, but it is about your perspective in the world. And mine to me is as a gay man and Latino and that influences everything I do. I know what it’s like to fall in love with a man and keep it a secret, to have these urges I am told are wrong and have to hide them.”

The Tony Award-winning play The Inheritance changed Lopez’ life forever. It premiered at the Young Vic in London in 2018 and then transferred to Broadway the next year. “I had never written anything as personal and as long. I was taking an enormous risk with that play, not just professionally and creatively but personally. It made my career, but allowed me to reach people I had never been able to. People tell me it changed their lives.”


“Bottoms” is in theaters on August 25

“Red, White & Royal Blue” is now playing on Prime Video