When “Drop Dead Gorgeous” was released in 1999, Variety’s review was less than glowing: “Taking bazooka aim at a barn-door-wide target — hinterland beauty contests — [the film] is a fitfully amusing satire that would have gained a lot of mileage from just a tad more subtlety.”
Perhaps. But then the movie gained a massive gay following over the past 20 years precisely because of over-the-top performances from a cast that included Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams, Ellen Barkin, Allison Janney and the late Brittany Murphy.
“Right from the very beginning, walking into meetings as a very young man, I told them that this was a movie for people who are outsiders and don’t feel like they’re represented by regular movies,” director Michael Patrick Jann told Variety at a special screening of the film on Saturday night in Hollywood. “It’s an anti-mainstream movie and they still bought it for some reason.”
How does the director feel about it being embraced by the LGBTQ community? “I’m not at all surprised by that,” he said. “But I am gratified.”
Outfest and Hulu — which is currently streaming this previously unavailable cult classic — celebrated its anniversary hosting the screening and chat with Jann, co-stars Mindy Sterling and Shannon Nelson and the LGBTQ film festival’s Director of Programming Michael Dougherty.
“Finally! What the hell was going on?” asked Sterling, echoing the reaction of queer Twitter when the film popped up on their Hulu queues. “It still makes me laugh out loud,” she added. “And there are brilliant moments. I mean, the girls, the pageants, the judges.” (Granted, there are also some offensive moments such as the repeated use of the word “retard.”)
The conversation inevitably turned to Murphy. “She always had that smile. And that laugh,” said Sterling. “She loved everybody and I absolutely adored her.”
Nelson, meanwhile, was starstruck: “I was of the age where ‘Clueless’ was everything to me and I came at her from a fangirl perspective. But she never let me — she was always just Brit. She was the person who helped me move to Los Angeles, who opened up doors for me, who took my phone calls.”
Nelson also shared that she and Murphy later screen-tested for the same role in a big feature film, which they both lost to Patricia Arquette. “It was my biggest loss in life at the time but Brittany called me and she was like, ‘We’re getting fucking drunk!’ ”