I was lucky that I had no firsthand knowledge of her. I knew who she was but I’d never seen an episode of 90210. She auditioned. One of my producers suggested her and I thought she’d be funny but she had to audition. She was totally a trouper. She auditioned with the diner scene and had it down. She knew why it was funny. She earned the role like any other actor.
Coco Peru nearly steals the film with her monologue. Did you write the role specifically for her?
Coco — Clinton Leupp is his real name — had been a friend of mine for a long time and I had put him in a play. Originally there was no drag queen in Trick, but when we did readings of the script Clint actually read the Tori Spelling role. [Laughs] I didn’t know any women who could read it funny and I wanted to hear it read funny. He was so good that I thought I had to work him into the movie. That bathroom scene evolved. We eventually wrote him in and sketched out a monologue for him, but Clint who is a monologist by nature basically wrote that based on what was in the script.
There’s a very strong resemblance between Coco and Tori. Was that intentional?
That has haunted the project. In fact when the film played at Sundance that was the first question we were asked at the Q&A. I honestly didn’t see it coming. I know that sounds crazy in retrospect. I knew Clint for so long and he’d always had that trademark red wig and Tori changed her hair color a lot. I think when I met Tori her hair was a different color. I honestly didn’t intend that to happen. I wish I’d taken more advantage of it. It’s a happy accident.
There was a surge of queer films in the late ‘90s yet Trick seemed to stand apart from the rest. What do you remember about the response to the film at the time?
When you’re in the middle of the whirlwind it’s hard to be objective. It just seemed charmed. It was an amazing, magical time and was everything you hoped your first feature would be. I’m very proud of it. It was my first feature and it was a validating moment. It was just wonderful to put something out there that I really loved and to have people respond to it.
Not every film gets a celebratory 15th anniversary screening. Why do you think Trick still resonates with people?
I’m honored that people still refer to it. When people ask me what I do and I mention that I directed Trick, most of the time people have a very positive response. I think there’s something classic about the story and emotions and falling in love which is very relatable. I was actively making a gay film but I think I stumbled upon a story that was accessible and kind of universal. The subversive thing is that you fall in love with two gay guys and when they kiss at the end you want them to kiss. I think that was very political for the time.
What do you think the characters are doing now?
I’m in the very early stages of a sequel. Everybody is on board and wants to do it. I resisted it for a long time but I think now that so much time has passed it would be interesting to revisit these characters as adults. I’m still developing the story but hopefully it will come together. The concept is the two boys went on a date and it didn’t work out. They ended up never having sex. Then cut to 15 years later and they run into each other again. This would be them getting together and getting to know each other in the real world as adults with a lot of water under the bridge.
Watch the Trick trailer below.