After 17 years, Del Shores returns to the sordid lives of Latrelle (Bonnie Bedelia), LaVonda (Ann Walker), Aunt Sissy and Brother Boy (Leslie Jordan) with A Very Sordid Wedding – which was triggered by a simple question from a fan about what happened to these characters after the 2000 original.
“It was a bit challenging to figure out how to go back to these characters and make the story fresh,” the engaging Shores recalls in a lively phone interview with Gay Essential about the sequel to his classic film. “I didn’t just want to write a silly movie; I wanted to write a movie that reflected what was going on right now.”
Shores told me that his original draft, in which the action took place in 2014, had Latrelle throwing a gay wedding in the state of Texas where the film is set. Though gay marriage had not yet been made legal, the film would posit that one day it will be.
Then on June 26th, 2015, the Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.
“It just unlocked everything for me with these characters,” Shores remembers about that glorious day when he was up at 6am refreshing the Supreme Court website for updates. “Once that happened, I could tell this story, tell it fresh and different, celebrate what we’ve accomplished and show how people are reacting to it.”
The film, which now took place in 2015 after the verdict, reflects reactions on both sides as the local church organizes an Anti-Equality Revival. This pushes the more evolved Aunt Sissy, who read the entire Bible for herself, and Latrelle, whose gay son Ty (Kirk Geiger) and his husband Kyle (T Ashanti Mozelle) are making her a grandmother, to take action against the revival with the aforementioned gay wedding.
“I feel like we ignore those people who have evolved with us,” Shores says. “We blast the ones who haven’t, but we forget that there are some people who are fighting for us. I really wanted to show that because I’ve had some very influential people in my life who have changes their hearts and minds.”
Filming for A Very Sordid Wedding was at a near breakneck pace with a total of 14 days – 11 ½ in Winnipeg, Canada and 2 ½ in Dallas, Texas. Shores credits his great actors and Director of Photography for being able to get it done. Most of these great actors had starred in the original film (and many in the subsequent 2008 TV series). Shores likens revisiting these characters to going home for a visit and says that reuniting with the cast was wonderful as they had become a great extended family over the years. New to the Sordid fold are such names as Carole Cook, Alec Mapa and Levi Kreis.
One notable absence was Beth Grant — who played the popular Aunt Sissy in the original film and subsequent TV series but did not return for the sequel. In her stead is veteran character actress Dale Dickey – who has already won a Best Supporting Actress AUDIENCE award at the 2017 San Diego LGBT Film Festival for her excellent work in the film.
“She is one of our finest actresses,” Shores praises. “This was my fifteenth time working with Dale. [Interestingly, she has played a different character in each screen incarnation of Sordid Lives.] I just love her so much. Besides being such a great actress, she’s just a good person.”
When asked about any future films or TV revival, Shores tells us that A Very Sordid Wedding is the end – and designed that way. “It truly is the end. I’ve had a wonderful run with Sordid Lives. I started writing the play in late 1995 and opened the play in 1996. It’s been 21 years since the whole thing started. It’s been an amazing journey. I love that people love it so much. [But] I feel like it’s complete. It felt complete after we filmed it. After I watch it each time, it feels complete.”
Shores quotes Ann Walker’s more darkly funny response to a similar question at a recent Q&A in Ft. Lauderdale: “Honey, we’re dropping like flies! We lost Rue [who passed away in 2010, but factors greatly in the film] and we lost Juanita [played by actress Sarah Hunley – who passed away in October after production ended]. There’s going to be bets on who’s next!”
Neither Shores nor I could think of another movie that has so documented what happened in small-town America after the Supreme Court ruling. “It was an odd little journey to get there, but I’m so glad that there’s something a little bit historical about A Very Sordid Wedding. And we have Whoopi Goldberg in it!”
Yes, THE Whoopi Goldberg makes an appearance in the film as a very unconventional pastor who presides over the gay wedding. Goldberg has been a fan of Shore’s work and reached out through friend Caroline Rhea (who plays Noleta) for a part.
Goldberg doesn’t drive or fly, but traveled 25 hours by bus from New York, where she co-hosts The View, to shoot her scene in Winnipeg. Shores speaks of her as “the star you want to aspire to be on a set. She was so good to everybody.”
Shores (with producing partner Emerson Collins — who has a supporting role in the film as a serial killer who takes up with Brother Boy) continues to attend screenings of the film and will to do so until the DVD drops on October 17th, so he hasn’t had much time to get wistful about this being the end of Sordid Lives. “I’m sort of in that celebration mode where we can just sit back and watch our work being watched by other people and see the response,” he says. “It’s a thrilling thing to watch people sit in an audience with other people and just get so excited as each character comes on the screen. After the 17th…that’s probably when I’ll crash a little bit.”
But Shores will still be keeping very busy. He is developing a new TV series. He has a new standup show premiering in Palm Springs on October 29th called “Six Characters in Search of a Play” – which is basically all the characters he hasn’t been able to put in any plays yet. And he’s working on a theatre piece called “This Side of Crazy” that he’ll return to once he gets a second wind on it.
You can keep up with all this by logging on to Del Shores’ website, checking out his Facebook page or simply googling his name.
And to find a A Very Sordid Wedding screening near you, check out the film’s Facebook page.
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Del Shores