To say that I like to avoid controversy is not entirely an accurate statement. I do, after all, make and write about horror films for a living, and in doing so am always in the process of offending someone. However, by and large, I generally attempt to steer clear of antagonizing people on a day-to-day basis, as it usually just leads to trouble.
Of course, such edicts are incredibly difficult to live by in a world of sensationalist journalism and rampant ignorance. By and large, most controversy that is paraded across the news is not the result of any truly dire, establishment bucking event…but rather the result of bored people needing something to bitch or gossip about.
One such “controversial” news story broke earlier this week concerning horror director Tim Sullivan’s choice to cast young actor Sean Lockhart in his latest motion picture. Now, the notion that a director would cast an actor in a film is not shocking unto itself, but when one takes into account the fact that Lockhart is more widely known as international gay porn icon Brent Corrigan (pictured above and left), there begins to form an understanding about why some have gotten their panties in a bunch.
Now, I completely understand that there are those who have a strong and vehement opposition to the adult film industry. For whatever moral or religious reason people may cite, there are just those who have a problem with sexy videos. This is totally fine and I can even respect an individual’s adherence to their personal beliefs. However, the fact that there exists in our world pornography or porn stars is hardly newsworthy. We all know they’re out there and have been in some capacity since the dawn of mankind.
This is why I found it particularly shocking and slightly irksome that the Huffington Post’s lead entertainment blog this past week glared the headline “Is Hollywood Ready for a Gay Male Adult Actor in Leading Roles?”
In fairness, the article (written by the always insightful Lee Stranahan), was extremely supportive of Sullivan’s decision to cast Lockhart (both pictured right), citing similar instances in which adult stars had successfully crossed over. However, I was left troubled over the fact that the very bastion of liberal media would even attempt to start the discussion over whether Lockhart’s casting was acceptable or not. Despite Stranhan’s enthusiastic backing, there was still the underlying emphasis that if it needed discussed, there might be something inherently wrong.
As far as I’m concerned, even the vague notion that this is in some way an inappropriate casting choice is unacceptable.
There is nothing wrong with Lockhart, and there’s nothing wrong with Tim Sullivan for choosing him for the role.
In a brief correspondence I had with Sullivan over my favorite social networking device, I shared with him the fact that I applauded his choice…and that I felt true fans of horror and cult cinema would too. Having proven himself a capable and talented director with such films as 2001 Maniacs and Driftwood, Sullivan has earned the right to cast whoever he wants to bring his vision to life. In this case, he chose Sean Lockhart…and as fans and fellow artists, we must accept that Sullivan knows what he’s doing.
More so, it’s not like Sullivan’s decision is without precedent. As Stranahan mentioned in his Huffington Post article, there certainly have been a fair number of adult-to-mainstream crossovers. More often than not, those transitions have occurred in the realm of cult cinema. The horror industry and the adult industry have always had a strange marriage, perhaps because both are populated with outcasts who strive to make art that shocks and titillates. Whatever the reason, horror and its fans have always greeted crossover stars with open arms. I urge the community to continue with that tradition now.
Since I always strive to educate you, the dear children of the popcorn, on cult history, I think it’s important that we take this moment to reflect on the fact that Lockhart is merely taking his place in a long line of adult industry icons who have transcended to join us here on the blood-thirsty dark side of the video store.
The most blatant example to friends of the PC universe would be Traci Lords, whose career in adult cinema was legendary, but made a breakthrough crossover in such cult fare as Not of This Earth and the John Waters classic Cry Baby. Thanks to Waters’ understanding that Lords’ status as a cinematic outlaw didn’t make her untalented, the actress became embraced by a whole new generation of filmgoers…many of whom didn’t even know about her adult past (or didn’t care).
Similarly, the legendary Marilyn Chambers (of Behind the Green Door fame) was singled out by horror legend David Cronenberg to have a stab at “straight” acting in his iconic tale of body horror, Rabid. The film proved so popular to horror fans that Chambers routinely attended horror conventions to meet gore enthusiasts up until her death several years ago.
My pal Lloyd Kaufman has routinely cast Ron Jeremy in a slew of Troma titles, former featured Cult Filmmaker You Should Know Rick Sloane gave Ginger Lynn Allen her crossover by casting her in the lead of his classic Vice Academy flicks, and the 70s porn king Jamie Gillis appeared in Joel M. Reed’s Night of the Zombies.
Have I made my point yet?
The fact is, many stars have come from the world of sex cinema and transcended to the mainstream. Of these, many were able to leave their previous body of work behind to enjoy a whole new career. However, that is not to say that I think any of these individuals should be ashamed of their previous work, either.
Admittedly, I could never do what Sean Lockhart (Mr. Corrigan, if you prefer) has done. I complained on the set of my last film about the possibility of taking off my shirt, so the idea of me going starkers on camera is pretty much outside my realm of comfort. That said, I don’t judge people who have. Indeed, Sean looks great naked…we should be happy for him instead of pointing vilifying fingers. This is the whole point of a porn star: To project the idealized body which we wished we or our lovers possessed. To that degree, he’s successfully sold a fantasy to many and I see no reason to fault him for that or the films that he’s done.
But more so, it really has nothing to do with the fact that Sean Lockhart has done pornography at all. True, for better or worse, that’s part of who Sean Lockhart is…but it’s not all he is.
…and as members of a cult film community who know fully well what it’s like to live on the fringe, celebrate things that the general public turns away from, and cheer for all things campy and arcane…I feel it would be a disservice to this actor and Tim Sullivan to attempt to create some sense of controversial dissonance merely over the casting of one individual, regardless of their past.
If we are to judge Lockhart or Sullivan, let’s judge the movie, not their mere involvement. As I said before, as a proven master of the macabre, I fully trust Tim Sullivan’s decision to use Lockhart in this piece. If casting someone from the adult sector was good enough for the great John Waters, then I certainly see no reason why it can’t be good enough here. After all, Cry Baby is a legend…for all we know, Sullivan is crafting another one.
The film, which I realize I have failed to mention by name, is titled I Was a Teenage Werebear and serves as Sullivan’s segment in a larger anthology film called Chillerama (which also features pieces by horror directors like Adam Green, Adam Rifkin, and Joe Lynch). The movie is a culmination of influences and creative minds that have come together to celebrate a genre which we all love. To allow sensationalism to distract from the movie would really be a disservice to not just Lockhart and Sullivan, but to all parties involved in its creation. Ultimately, it’s a fright film and it should be enjoyed as one without the trappings of the controversy by which it is surrounded. When I sit down to watch this movie, it will be because I love horror and the people involved, not for any other mundane and media fabricated reason.
Regardless of his past, Sean Lockhart is one of us now (gooble gobble) and I urge you all to welcome him aboard the horror train with open arms and bloody knives. I wish he and Tim Sullivan nothing but the very best on their spooktacular endeavor and sincerely look forward to seeing them at the multiplex…
…and not in the headlines.
Until next time.