A few years ago, a female-presenting friend of the director Duncan Tucker sat him down over drinks. Ive got a dick, the pre-op friend said, an announcement that left Tucker stunned. My T-dar was not up in any way, the gay director says. But the incident was an inspiration for the movie.
The film in question is Transamerica, which won a Readers Jury Award at the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival in February, garnered a rave review in Variety, and prompted serious interest for distribution rights. The film, which will play at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York on April 24 and will probably be released later in the year, tells the story of Bree, a transitioning transsexual who discovers she has a teenage son. (Bree had forgotten the liaison that produced him.) The pair embark on a road trip to get to know each other better.
Tucker, who not only directed but wrote the movie, says that he did research for the script for about a year. One of the things I did, he says, was interview street hustlers, because Toby [the son character] is hustling when he and his mother first meet. I also consulted members of the transgender community, who were very supportive.
One of the biggest challenges, says Tucker, who made the short movie Mountain King and who describes himself as a generalist, was to find an actress who could play Bree. The search led him to Felicity Huffman. I had seen Felicity in a David Mamet play, and I saw something in her. She has an incredible courage, without vanity. When we finally sat down to discuss the role, she asked, How do you play the male part of the character if youre a woman? Felicity doesnt have a naturally low voice, for example, so she did a lot of work on that. We also did a lot of makeup tests.
The movie was shot in May and June of last year, in rural New York, in Los Angeles, and in Arizona, which is Tuckers home state. We had to be efficient, because Felicity had to be back in L.A. by July 6, to begin shooting a new TV series. (In case youve been living on the moon, that series is Desperate Housewives.)
Tucker says that during the filming of the movie, which was executive produced by Huffmans real-life husband, William H. Macy, he and the actress became friends. The other day, the director says, she told me that the movie has stayed with her. She dreams that she has a five oclock shadow that she cant get rid of. And she said she had another dream where she and I are male lovers. I think wed make quite a couple.