“Gay characters in a movie back when I was growing up were either the villain or a joke”: Todd Stephens on Swan Song
Writer-director Todd Stephens returns to his home territory of Ohio for the third time for new feature Swan Song, which forms a tribute to the late gay local icon and hairdresser Pat Pitsenbarger. The film finds Pat called out of retirement in a care home for one last job: to do the hair for one of his recently deceased – but very wealthy – clients ahead of her funeral.
Pat eventually seizes the opportunity to bust out of the mundanity of his ailment-plagued existence to rekindle his lust for life, encountering new friends and old and reliving memories on his way to complete this call-to-arms. German Udo Kier is the unlikely actor who takes on the lead role of Pat to wonderous effect, fully embodying the flamboyance and cynicism of an eccentric character past his prime but brought back to renewed vigour, not least through an aesthetic transformation via fabulous attire.
As much a tribute to the slowing vanishing gay community of the past, when LGBTQ+ culture was less accepted in mainstream society, the film balances poignancy with dry humour, diving at once into the unique specificity of one elderly man’s journey to re-find himself, while also delivering a universal message of: it’s never too late.
The Upcoming had a chat with Stephens about why he wanted to make the tribute as his first feature in over a decade, finding his perfect Pat in Kier, returning to Ohio to film the third in a trilogy of stories alongside Edge of Seventeen and Gypsy 83, the bittersweet endearing tone of the film which celebrates finding joy in later life and looking fabulous while doing it, as well as the evolution of LGBTQ+ culture and cinema.
Swan Song is released in select cinemas on 10th June 2022.
Watch the trailer for Swan Song here: