Two of the highly anticipated highlights of Outfest 2021 Los Angeles LGBTQIA+ Film Festival include Phil Connell’s Jump, Darling starring Cloris Leachman in her final starring film appearance; and Emmy-winning director Jeffrey Schwarz’ Boulevard! A Hollywood Story.
Jump, Darling is the new LGBTQ family drama starring Cloris Leachman, who recently passed away at the age of 94, in her final starring role. The film has been praised by critics as a worthy swan-song from the late Oscar and BAFTA-winning Hollywood legend. The screening will also feature a Special Celebrity Tribute introduced by Cybill Shepherd, featuring Bryan Cranston, Lily Tomlin, Leslie Jordan, Bob Saget, Leachman’s family, and more!
Written and directed by debut filmmaker Phil Connell, Jump, Darling follows a rookie drag queen (played by newcomer Thomas Duplessie) reeling from a breakup who moves in with his declining grandmother (Leachman) to protect her from the local nursing home. The film is a thoughtful exploration of the right to live as who we are and how we wish, while also grappling with end of life care. The initial seeds for Jump, Darling were two parallel tracks: Connell’s experience with end-of-life care conversations with his grandmother, and his experience choosing life as an artist. “Over a period of years, my late grandmother struggled with how to prepare for her ‘decline’ –be it physical or mental,” shares Connell. “It was ‘the’ topic of conversation each time I would visit her. Meanwhile, as I recommitted to filmmaking, I struggled to maintain my resolve – against all the forces and voices – the ones that every artist face.”
The supporting cast of Jump, Darling includes Linda Kash (Best in Show), Jayne Eastwood (Chicago), and cameos from well-known drag queens Tynomi Banks (featured recently on Canada’s Drag Race), Fay Slift, and Miss Fiercalicious. The film showcases six on-screen drag performances against a pop soundtrack including Robyn, Allie X, Rough Trade, Years & Years, and more. The film is produced by Katie Corbridge (An Acquired Taste), Executive Produced by Karen Harnisch (White Lie) and Allison Black (Giant Little Ones).
Cloris Leachman won both an Academy Award and a BAFTA Film Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Last Picture Show, and holds the record for the most Primetime Emmy acting nominations in history: 22. She is best known for her role as “Phyllis” on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, played to such great success that it led to her own television series spinoff, Phyllis. “Cloris was an icon and an ally,” said Connell. “To work with her, to know her, and now to share her final leading performance with the world is a true honor.”
Boulevard! A Hollywood Story will have its World Premiere from Emmy-winning director, Jeffrey Schwarz (The Fabulous Allan Carr, Tab Hunter Confidential, I Am Divine, Vito). In the film, Dickson Hughes and Richard Stapley, two young songwriters and romantic partners, find themselves caught in movie star Gloria Swanson’s web when she hires them to write a musical version of Sunset Boulevard. Life imitates art when Gloria falls for Richard, and the men find themselves living a real-life version of the classic film.
For Gloria Swanson, the iconic star of “Sunset Boulevard,” both the movie and the character of Norma Desmond provided a renewed spotlight. Seeing in Norma a portal back to the stardom she once commanded during her years as an actress in silent pictures, Swanson strategically began efforts to parlay Sunset Boulevard into a new phase of her career. Swanson had begun to envision a musical stage adaptation of the film.
Schwarz shares, “I love learning about the behind-the-scenes drama of classic movies, and devoured film historian Sam Staggs’ book ‘Close-up on Sunset Boulevard’. It was here I first learned about Gloria Swanson’s failed attempt to launch a musical version of ‘Sunset Boulevard’, and the resulting creative threesome with her composers– Dickson Hughes and Richard Stapley. The two men were lovers but presented themselves to the world as writing partners and roommates, a necessary contrivance in the homophobic 1950s. Their working relationship with Gloria Swanson mirrored the plot of ‘Sunset Boulevard;, and they found themselves living a real-life version of the film when Gloria fell for the handsome Richard Stapley. Life imitates art, indeed!”
“This film is about how our protagonists poured their heart and soul into a creative venture that would ultimately blow up in their faces,” says Schwarz. “It’s a heartbreak any creative person can identify with – presenting something to the world only to have it be met with at best indifference or at worst a critical drubbing. ‘Boulevard!’ is also about growing old, and how our protagonists faced the challenges of aging in a youth-obsessed society. Digging up stories from the past and re-invigorating legacies for a new generation has been my creative mission over the years. With ‘Boulevard! A Hollywood Story,’ a hidden Hollywood saga will finally be revealed, and provide a big screen comeback for Gloria Swanson, Richard Stapley, and Dickson Hughes.”
Jeffrey Schwarz is an Emmy Award-winning producer, director and editor based in Los Angeles. His previous documentaries include The Fabulous Allan Carr, which premiered at the 2017 Seattle International Film Festival; the 2015 SXSW premiere Tab Hunter Confidential; the Emmy Award-winning HBO Documentary Films’ Vito; I Am Divine, currently streaming on Netflix; Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon, currently streaming on Amazon Prime; and the 2007 AFI Fest Documentary Audience Award winner Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story. He is also a producer of studio Blu-ray and DVD content, and original television programming through his company, Automat Pictures. Hailed as an “EPK samurai” by Variety, he has produced content on major studio releases for directors such as Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Jonathan Demme, John Waters, Wes Craven, Rob Reiner, Barry Sonnenfeld, Paul Verhoeven, Chris Columbus, and the Coen Brothers. Schwarz appeared in The Advocate’s “Out 100” in 2013, and was the recipient of the 2015 Frameline Award, which honors those who have made a major contribution to LGBT representation in film, television, and the media arts.
OUTFEST IN-PERSON SCREENING @ DGA 1 (Director’s Guild)Tuesday: August 17th, 7:15PM
Virtual Screening: August 18th – August 20th
Visit https://www.thefilmcollaborative.org/films/boulevard for more info.