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Joel Kim Booster Talks Fighting for Fire Island's Queer References

Joel Kim Booster Talks Fighting for Fire Island's Queer References

Joel Kim Booster
Kathy Hutchins; Quinn Jeffrey/Shutterstock

The writer and star of the film said he wanted to make "a gay movie for gay people."

Out gay writer and actor Joel Kim Booster has been working in Hollywood for years, but it wasn’t until he wrote and starred in the queer rom-com Fire Island that he was catapulted into stardom.

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Booster revealed that there were a lot of “battles" between him and the studio in order to retain queer references that not everyone would get.

“One thing that was really important to me with Fire Island was that it felt like a gay movie for gay people,” he said. “I didn’t want to explain a lot of the jokes. I didn’t want to talk down to the audience.”

Many LGBTQ+ films have to take the time to explain the queer experience to audiences, but Booster didn’t want to do that with his film, which is a queer retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with Asian actors in the lead roles.

“That’s definitely a frustration that I had going into writing Fire Island,” he explained. “People really underestimate how willing people are to go on a ride into a world with you that they’re unfamiliar with. It’s really doing disservice to straight people — and you know, I am not the person to say that normally.”

The 35-year-old actor set his film on Fire Island because it was a place that held significance to him. Booster said it’s where he “came of age” and entered a “new stage of adulthood," but he also recognizes that not everyone has access to that kind of experience.

“I really found myself and accepted my identity and queerness in a new way,” he remembers. “But it is difficult because it’s such an impenetrable place for a lot of people. And it’s not just the issues that I speak about in the movie — the race politics and the body politics. But it’s also just economically unviable for a lot of people. So it does sort of dampen some of the magic for me, knowing that I’ve created a movie celebrating this place that a lot of people can’t even visit.”

Even though the island may not be accessible to everyone, Booster still sees its importance in gay culture. “But I still think that there’s real value in a space like Fire Island that is completely queer, gay, and beautiful and historic. You can feel the history there,” he said.

Booster has written for Billy on the Street, Big Mouth, and The Other Two and also acted in a ton of tv shows, like Search Party (he was hilarious!). He currently stars in the Maya Rudolph Apple TV+ comedy Loot and was in an episode of Netflix’s new show Glamorous.

The 35-year-old is toying with the idea of making another film, but has a “nagging fear” that it won’t live up to the incredible success and meaningful impact of his award-winning freshman film Fire Island.

“Like, is this going to be what people see me for forever? And I’d be very proud if Fire Island is my peak, quite honestly,” Booster admitted. “But I wanna make sure people know that I’m not just the guy who makes gay vacation Jane Austen adaptations.”

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