Friday, January 10, 2014

Rob Moretti's Kindred Spirit

On the Saturday just before writer-director-actor Rob Moretti's latest film Truth (2014) premieres in New York City at the Quad Cinema, the same theater where his previous and debut film Crutch premiered about ten years prior, Moretti admitted he was more nervous this second time around. When asked why, he said because "more went into it." Even though it seemed unlikely that Moretti could have put more into this film than his first, given that his first was extremely autobiographical, he was able to do more. The emotional and physical demands like losing thirty pounds, as well as Moretti's collaboration with former adult film star Sean Paul Lockhart who stars in the movie and who contributed to the screenplay, allowing elements of both their life stories to bleed through, really speak to the "more" that went into this project.

When I caught up with Moretti by phone, he candidly told me that he is now celebrating his 17th year in recovery from alcoholism. The character Jeremy Dorian, which he portrays in Truth, states that he's been in recovery for about as long. "Sober for 15 years," he says. Yes, the "more" that Moretti put into this film includes his own personal struggle with addiction. Moretti isn't playing himself or acting out scenes that happened in his real-life per se. That was more the idea of Crutch. It's merely that the issue of substance abuse and its related problems were so great and affecting in Moretti's own life that he needed to include it here.

Rob Moretti (right) plays
Jeremy Dorian in "Truth"
If you haven't seen his first, Jeremy essentially reiterates the plot of Crutch. What happens is a young man starts down the road of addiction after suffering under his mother's addiction problems, while also contending with an older man who has homosexual feelings for him. Those feelings start out as mutual but then things become antagonistic. Substance abuse problems come between them and his wayward mother continues to be a disruptive factor as well. This basic idea is then replicated for Moretti's Truth. No, the two movies aren't identical, but the parallels between Crutch and Truth are apparent. The parallels are not simply in characterization but also in structure. Both films have the young male character sitting down and telling the story of his relationship with the older male. In both films, Moretti plays that older male.

What was interesting though is in Crutch, the young male is the fictional version of who Moretti was as a teenager, and Moretti's character lusts after that teenager. Basically, Moretti played a character who lusts after a version of himself. It's almost a strange form of narcissism, but looking at it objectively it's a fascinating psychological analysis.

As such, so is Truth. The difference is that instead of being a psychological analysis that specifically echoes Moretti's personal life, it's more of a piece that echoes Sean Paul Lockhart's personal life. Around 2011, Moretti started reading about Lockhart online and found some similarities between their two lives. Moretti felt he had found a kind of kindred spirit in Lockhart. He was also struck by the incredible things that Lockhart had experienced or of which he had been a part.

As a 17-year-old teenager, Lockhart allegedly started working in gay pornography. Having been slightly taken advantage of in that industry, Lockhart nonetheless went on to became a pretty, popular, adult film star. Unfortunately, one of Lockhart's porn producers, Bryan Kocis, was brutally murdered in 2007, and Lockhart had to testify in the trial that convicted the two men responsible for that slaying. Lockhart was in part blamed being that all news stories about it cited Lockhart as the motive for the murder.

Sean Paul Lockhart stars
as Caleb Jacobs in "Truth"

Moretti read about all this and was inspired to write Truth with Lockhart in mind to play the lead. Lockhart at that point was beginning to appear in more mainstream films. He had a small role in the Oscar-winning film Milk (2008) and he was featured in the indie sci-fi Judas Kiss (2011) to which Moretti had a connection. Moretti used that connection to reach out to Lockhart and offer to work with him.

Moretti told me that Lockhart was hesitant to do the movie. He was hesitant because the echoes were a little too close to home. Lockhart was worried the imagery might reflect a negative image that people already had about him, most likely in regards to the Kocis murder. Yet, Lockhart agreed to do the movie, and it marks the first time the 27-year-old born on Halloween will be the lead in a theatrical film and be the one to carry it as the main actor.

In a scene from "Truth," Caleb is cut in more ways
than one, in nothing but blue Andrew Christian briefs.

I haven't spoken with Lockhart, but over the course of making this movie Moretti said he and Lockhart came to have a tight bond. Watching a behind-the-scenes video, which is available online, it's clear through Moretti and Lockhart's body language when they're together and the short-hand between them that the two seemed like they are now good if not great friends.

When Lockhart made suggestions and wanted to change certain things in the movie, Moretti went with those changes. Lockhart added some elements to his character's mother. He even gave a note to one of Jeremy's lines, a line that formerly invoked Will & Grace. Even though this is very much Moretti's movie, it also very much felt like it was a nice partnership. After the film's release, Moretti even has designs to do another project with Lockhart.

Lockhart and Moretti's characters share
several tender moments in bed together.

But, again, this is very much Moretti's movie. It's only his second directorial effort. It's quite personal for him. Besides being a reflection of not only himself and people that he knows, it's also an expression of what he would like to see in gay cinema. As Crutch shows, Moretti was very interested in horror films, even as a young, aspiring actor.

While horror films is a quite robust market in the movie business, it's never been a market that features a lot of LGBT characters or situations, if any. With this film, Moretti wanted to address this because he says he loves thrillers, and, films like Fatal Attraction (1987) and Misery (1990) were very much influences for him here.

Rob Moretti's Truth is currently playing in theaters. For those not near Manhattan, it's also currently available on Vimeo. For Dish Network subscribers, the movie will premiere on February 11. The DVD with special features, including 25 minutes of deleted scenes, will be for sale on March 4th.


For more information, go to: http://truth-the-movie.com/
Follow Rob Moretti @robmoretti and Sean Paul Lockhart @SeanPaulLock on Twitter.

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