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Spoiler Alert's Jim Parsons & Ben Aldridge Know a Love Story's Power

Spoiler Alert's Jim Parsons & Ben Aldridge Know a Love Story's Power

Jim Parsons and Ben Aldridge

Out's January/February cover stars, who starred in Spoiler Alert, 2022’s best love story, see storytelling as a means of changing hearts and minds in Hollywood and beyond.

It has been a banner awards season for LGBTQ+ films, with queer-centered productions like Tar, The Inspection, The Whale, and Bros raking in nominations for Hollywood's top prizes. Another major contender, one of the past year's best love stories, is Spoiler Alert, which shines even with (and perhaps, because of) its heartache.

Based on the critically acclaimed 2017 memoir Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies, the romantic drama from Focus Features chronicles the relationship between television journalist and TVLine founder Michael Ausiello (Jim Parsons) and his photographer husband, Kit Cowan (Ben Aldridge), the great love of his life. The film begins with the pair's courtship, from a meet-cute at a New York City bar to a coming-out to Kit's parents. What follows is the life of a relationship: a decade of corny Christmas cards, ups and downs, and major milestones like moving in (and moving out).

Jim Parsons

With a title like Spoiler Alert, the ending is no secret. The viewer sees the lovers' final days together before Kit's life is tragically cut short by terminal cancer. Spoiler alert: There are a lot of tears in store. Despite being born from a real-life tragedy, the film is a master class in showing viewers what real queer love can look like -- messy, complex, and beautiful.

"I've had the privilege of playing several different gay characters that I thought were very full in a very deep and involved context in the stories, but this was unique in the way of getting to play those highs and lows," says Parsons, the Emmy-winning gay actor who rose to fame playing Sheldon Cooper on CBS's The Big Bang Theory.

"This relationship was the most authentic, for me, representation of who I am and the people I know and love," he adds. "I've just never experienced anything like it. It was a fullness and a richness to their relationship that I had not gotten to portray onstage or on camera before. And good lord, was it rewarding."

Ben Aldridge

"One of the things I'm proudest of in the film is that it's about love," says Aldridge, who plays the confident, jock-y, handsome Kit to Parsons's shy, nerdy Michael. "It's about a relationship, and them being gay is integral to that. But also, what it is to be in a relationship over a long period of time and the fact that isn't necessarily easy, and they weather various storms and about how life and time changes them."

"I think it's nice for us to be able to watch stories about ourselves that are beyond the normal trappings," Aldridge adds. "Where we are not suffering at the hands of our sexuality or because of our sexuality. We're just real."

Jim Parsons and Ben AldridgeBen Aldridge in Salvatore Ferragamo Men's Tonal Gancini T-Shirt Sweater, Alex Mill Donegal Wool Sweater Vest, R. Swiader Jeremy Jacket and Trousers, Gucci Leather Lace-up Shoes, London Sock Company Socks

Jim Parsons in Dolce & Gabbana Cashmere Turtleneck Sweater, Robe Di Kappa Button Down shirt, Paul Smith Check Wool Double-Breasted Blazer, Brioni Twill 5-Pocket Pants, Churchs Shannon Lace-up Derby Shoe, Eton Pocket Square, Prive Revaux Glasses, London Sock Company Socks

A major part of Spoiler Alert's realness comes from those who crafted it. While the source material is from Ausiello, the script was penned by gay writers David Marshall Grant, a Tony-nominated actor from Angels in America who went on to write for Brothers & Sisters and Smash, and Dan Savage, of the It Gets Better Project and Savage Love sex column fame.

Moreover, Parsons and his company, That's Wonderful Productions, are producing Spoiler Alert. Parsons first came across the memoir after moderating a Q&A with Ausiello at a Los Angeles-area Barnes & Noble after the book's 2017 release. And ally Michael Showalter -- known for other critically acclaimed films based on real-life stories like The Eyes of Tammy Faye and The Big Sick -- was tapped to direct. With this resume, Parsons knew he was the perfect choice.

"Michael is the perfect balance of heartfelt and taking it seriously," Parsons says. "He also brings a style that is not indulgent; it just takes it for what it is and it gets at its essence."

And of course, a major gay production needs a top-tier gay icon. And Spoiler Alert boasts none other than two-time Oscar winner Sally Field.

"It was definitely [a] very kind of pinch-myself moment," Aldridge confesses of getting to work with a beloved actress whose work includes Norma Rae and Places in the Heart, the two films for which she won Academy Awards as Best Actress. Herself a parent to a gay son in real life, Field portrays Kit's loving mother, Marilyn. In the first scene Parsons and Aldridge filmed with her, Marilyn meets Michael for the first time at the hospital under the guise of him being Kit's "friend." It was a crucible moment for Aldridge, a gay British actor known to American audiences for playing Thomas Wayne in Pennyworth and the hot "Arsehole Guy" in Fleabag.

"I felt nerves and excitement and also a level of intimidation," Aldridge recalls of that day. "I was kind of [preparing] myself to be like, 'I'm going to be looking into Sally Field's eyes. She's going to be acting back with me.' Me and Jim both were saying that we just want her to think that we are good and worthy."

Ben AldridgeAlfani Black Tank Top, Knickerbocker Jack Camp Shirt in Natural, Paul Smith Check Wool-Cashmere Pleated Pants, John Lobb Kenton Monk-Strap Mens Leather Shoes, Prive Revaux Glasses London Sock Company Socks

Field says the project was an immediate "yes!" for her after learning that Showalter and Grant were attached; she previously worked with the former on the 2015 film Hello, My Name Is Doris and with Grant on ABC's Brothers & Sisters. She also connected with the project's message.

"I love that it's about how hard it is to love somebody," Field says. "How hard it is to keep it, endure it, whether it be the older couple loving their son or the young couple loving each other. It's about compassion and all of these things that right now I think the world needs to see. I was absolutely in."

With this sterling team assembled, there was more than enough care to give heart and truth to Michael and Kit's story without veering into melodrama. And the film, bravely, is not afraid to be sad. Although some viewers -- particularly LGBTQ+ folks -- may yearn for Hollywood happy endings, this is not the reality of the world today.

"This is a real story. This is true. I think that's what we most want as a community: to see ourselves truthfully represented and not skewed one way or the other," Aldridge says. "The fact that there have been so many tragic stories told...that's because there has been a lot of tragedy in our community. I think those stories really hold a vital place being on-screen and in books and on-stage. It's where we've learned most about ourselves."

"We're not immune, as gay people, to tragedy outside of the usual tropes," Aldridge adds. "We are human, and I think it's really important to show that."

Jim Parsons and Ben Aldridge

However, the film refuses to wallow in despair. "While there is so much that is sad that happens in [Spoiler Alert], one of the big headlines from how many great things happened in Ausiello's life because of risking, going through heartbreak," says Parsons, adding, "I would say it's a happy ending as far as someone who's really doing the best they can to live their life to the fullest and not letting the fear of being hurt stop them from diving in."

With all of Spoiler Alert's acting magic, could Parsons and Aldridge -- or another out actor, like The Inspection's Jeremy Pope, for that matter -- take home Hollywood's top prize? Dismally, there has yet to be an out gay actor who has won an Oscar for playing a queer role -- though straight actors routinely take home gold for this opportunity. However, Parsons sees a changed landscape in 2023.

"I recognize how grateful I am that my life and the world has moved in a way that it has that I'm able to say this: I do not consider my sexuality or anybody else's when it comes to things like recognition," says Parsons, a four-time Emmy winner for The Big Bang Theory. "That could be a little naive. It's impossible to say that there isn't still any resistance, and I'm sure we could point to cases that might exemplify that point, but that's why I say it's really my personal thing. It doesn't cross my mind."

Parsons recognizes that, while there is a lot of work that needs to be done toward equity, in his experience, the film industry tries to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to representation and advancing social causes.

"There's at least a large segment of our industry that's always very eager to be a part of that kind of progressive change," he notes. "I know that [the] Hollywood industry isn't the same as theater, especially growing up doing theater out of the spotlight. But at a certain level, the way I feel about being in this industry is very similar to the way I felt as a young man getting into theater, where that was why I was able to come out and live my life before the public knew it." Parsons came out in 2012 in a profile for The New York Times.

Could Spoiler Alert break that rainbow glass ceiling at the Oscars? "I'm not saying it'll be [Spoiler Alert] that does that, but I think that with awards shows, that's not only a possibility, I think it's an inevitability," he says.

"I'm still waiting for a female president," Parsons continues. "I think that's much harder to get. So that's just my two cents."

Jim ParsonsOfficine Generale Black and White Striped Cotton and Linen-Blend T Shirt, Gucci Black and White Striped Polo Shirt, Salvatore Ferragamo Black Wide Legged Trousers, GH Bass Men's Larson Colorblock Weejuns Loafer, Giuliva Heritage Belt, Yves Saint Laurent Black Silk Satin Lavalliere Tie, Bailey Polished Wool LiteFelt Hat, Cartier Tank, Louis Cartier Watch, London Sock Company Socks

Beyond awards season, Parsons and Aldridge are hopeful that a film like Spoiler Alert -- especially since it came out during a year with other milestone gay-themed romantic projects from major studios like Bros and Fire Island -- will help move the needle when it comes to the future of queer storytelling. There are still many more stories they want to create and see.

"Good storytelling overrides so many people's bias about so many things, not just queer stories but God knows what in life," says Parsons, noting that LGBTQ+ creators first need to be given a seat at the table in order to tell a multitude of nuanced and original programming. "If you ask for just a few queer stories a year, well, then it feels like they either all have to be golden or they're probably all not going to work. It is hard to understand. How do you deal with that?.... But I think that is happening, and I think that continued good storytelling will just ensure that there are more. So I do feel hopeful."

"I feel hopeful as well," adds Aldridge, who would like to see an end to projects where LGBTQ+ characters have to provide an overview of their identity and culture to straight audiences. "A sophisticated story doesn't have to over-explain itself," he notes.

"Maybe it's too idealistic of me, but I feel like we don't need to do that," Aldridge says. "I feel like if the filming is elevated enough and the storytelling is on point, that we can just exist in a way that we don't need to explain ourselves to ourselves or to other people. When a film starts with 'This is how it works being gay and this is this tribe and that's that tribe,' I just feel like we don't need to be as concerned with being understood in that way and having mass appeal in that way."

As far as what specifically Aldridge wants to see more of in the future of queer cinema? Well, that answer harkens back to his own early career in the world of theater.

Aldridge would "love a really classy gay-ass musical that wasn't tacky, but it was just like, 'Shit that's a gay love story.' Gay love, singing...Gay Singing in the Rain. I'd be so down for that. Gay in the Rain!"

Jim Parsons and Ben AldridgeBen Aldridge in Todd Snyder Short-sleeved Novelty Shirt, Relaxed Herringbone Wythe Suit Pant, Boglioli Electric Blue Wool and Cashmere Cable Knit Crewneck Sweater, Schott NYC Cowhide Hip Length Car Coat, Gucci Mirrored G Loafer, Anderson Woven Leather Belt, London Sock Company Socks

Jim Parsons in Boglioli Turtleneck Ribbed Jumper, Percival Mohair Crew Neck Sweater, Canali Ring Belt and Button Pants, Tod's Leather Loafers, London Sock Company Socks

talent Jim Parsons@therealjimparsons & Ben Aldridge@benjaminaldridge
photographer David Urbanke@davidurbanke

photographer's assistant Thomas Chimney@thomaschimney
stylist Michael Fisher@mjonf
stylist's assistants Annika Morrison@annikajmorrison & Addison Lineberger
groomer, Jim Parsons Lisa-Raquel Baines@lisaraquel
groomer, Ben Aldridge Melissa DeZarate@melissa.dezarate
videographer Austin Nunes@austinunes

This article is part of Out's January/February 2023 issue, out on newsstands February 7. Support queer media and subscribe -- or download the issue through Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News. Watch the trailer for Spoiler Alert below and buy or rent the film now on streaming.

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Raffy Ermac

Raffy is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, video creator, critic, and the digital director of Out.

Raffy is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, video creator, critic, and the digital director of Out.