Outfest honoree debates what to do for an encore
What do you do next after completing your dream project?
That’s the enviable position of Bill Condon, recipient of this year’s Outfest Achievement Award, who recently fulfilled his longtime goal to direct a film version of the Broadway musical “Dreamgirls.” Condon, who attended the show on opening night more than 25 years ago, leveraged his Oscar-nominated screenplay for “Chicago” and the critical acclaim for his “Kinsey” biopic to land the job of adapting it for the screen. But his ambitions don’t stop there.
“I think ‘Dreamgirls’ was a dream, but it wasn’t the one I thought I was born to do,” says the helmer, sounding slightly embarrassed.
Condon’s directorial career got its start with his debut “Sister, Sister,” but he also dabbled in the genre field with “Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh” — an area Condon says he wouldn’t hesitate to revisit. He earned an Oscar for his next film, “Gods and Monsters,” a drama about James Whale, a gay man who made his name directing classic monster movies.
Since “Dreamgirls,” Condon has directed two musical-themed commercials, including one featuring hip-hop diva Mary J. Blige. “It’s been an interesting time to test yourself in new waters,” he says.
On the feature side, Condon is excited about a couple new projects that may soon come to fruition. The director is also toying with the idea of jumping into a field that’s been a source for some of his biggest successes in the movie industry — Broadway. Without getting specific, the native New Yorker hints that he is working on a nonmusical show for a friend to star in as well as developing a heavily revised production of a fairly recent musical.
The Outfest honor has special significance to Condon, though, especially as he’s being recognized on the festival’s 25th anniversary. “When I heard it was the silver anniversary, I kind of shuddered,” he says. “We’re all getting so old. My god, I can still remember seeing ‘Parting Glances,’ and to think that’s a movie that’s being restored now, it gives you pause.”
When Condon sat down to write “Gods and Monsters,” knowing that small companies might finance such a risky project helped him focus. For many young gay filmmakers, LGBT festivals such as Outfest provide the same inspiration, he says, offering the promise that their efforts will reach an audience.
“It’s an incredibly supportive place to premiere their works, and I think it remains critically important,” Condon says. “I for one know there are so many historically great gay stories that have yet to be told, and that’s something we’ll see emerge more and more in the next few years.”
For now, it all seems to circle back to “Dreamgirls,” so it’s no surprise that capping off his Outfest honor is the first-ever “Dreamgirls” sing-along screening on July 19. Could anything prepare Condon to hear throngs of gay fans butcher songs such as “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going”?
Without a beat, Condon replies, “To hear 1,000 gay people sing ‘Now who you calling common, you self-indulgent, self-absorbed, non-professional?’ will make my year.”