G.B.F. Screenwriter George Northy on His High School Experience, the Surprise R-Rating
By Stacy Lambe
Screenwriter George Northy wouldn't necessarily admit that G.B.F. is based on any particular high school experience. Teen comedies are meant to embody the universal experience. Maybe it's because we went to the same high school (Moon Area High School in Pennsylvania, in case you're curious), but I spotted a few similarities to the world we both inhabited a year apart. In a recent conversation with Northy, he revealed what is "real" and what is "fake," as well as his thoughts on the film's R-rating by the MPAA, which caught many by surprise. (Considering the 506 f-bombs in The Wolf of Wall Street, it's hard to imagine how a high school film even compares.)
On the autobiographical elements that influenced the film:
“Well I definitely had the experience of us never having an out gay kid at our high school. I think that’s probably changed by now at our high school. I feel like there’s never been an out kid at our school at least when we went there.
“Tanner, the main character (played by Michael J. Willett) and his best friend, Brent (Paul Iacono), are very autobiographical. [They’re] based on myself and two of my best friends, the relationship that can exist between two gay guys.”
On how those two best friends reacted to the film:
“One of them actually worked on it. He got a job on the production crew. They both recognized what parts of the character Brent are taken from them. And what conversations were suddenly lifted from our lives. They’re cool with it I think. The whole making-out part was actually made up. They were like, ‘It’s wish fulfillment.’ No, no.”
How his coming out experience played a part in the story:
“I personally think that friendship drama is more interesting than romantic drama. I like to write about that more than anything. I wanted that to drive the plot, that and the idea of the art of coming out. Everyone has their own way. Some people want to make a big splash. Some people want to fly under the radar...
"I was definitely the one who had a plan: I’d come out in college and it would be very drama free. I’ll just kind of do it very subtly. I wanted it to be the least big deal possible. Then my best friend had a completely different [experience]. He had a specific lunch or dinner plan with every single on of his friends. He was very curated in coming out, very meticulous. I think that was a big inspiration: The different forms of coming out.”
On which clique he would have been apart of:
“People have asked me, ‘which click would you be in?’ I definitely wouldn’t have been in Fawcett’s. I would have been in both ‘Shley’s and Caprice’s. I would have been a floater between those two groups. I was friends with the sweet Mormon girls and the goodie-goodie kids and we have our fun soda pop parties. But I was also part of the drama kids.”
On pop singer Jo Jo’s standout comedic performance as Soledad:
"I was really taken aback by her comedic timing. I did not know how great she was, how funny. That character could have been played campier but she really committed to it and played her as a real person. I think that’s what made it so funny."
On G.B.F.’s surprise R-rating:
“I took care to make all the sexual references innuendo. But in the end, I think if you have innuendo that refers to traditional heterosexual sex, they accept it a lot more than innuendo that refers to other things. Things that are based more in pleasure…
“I was really shocked. I wanted it to be a PG-13 movie but I wanted it to be real -- the way we talk about sex and exist in the world. I wasn’t going to water down the references anymore. That would feel bland and boring…
“It’s kind of irrelevant for the On Demand crowd, which is where I think a lot of kids are going to find this movie. But it’s just disappointing."
It turns out, Northy is not quite finished with the teen comedy world. He's now a staff writer for MTV's new series Faking It, which will reunite him with G.B.F. star Michael J. Willett. The series will tell the story of two best friends who will do anything to be popular and has been added to MTV's 2014 roster.
G.B.F. opens nationwide today and is also available on Video On Demand.