Image Credit: ‘I Think I Do,’ Strand Releasing

When we say the 1997 gay rom-com I Think I Do was ahead of its time, we mean that a few different ways.

Not only was it was one of the first examples of an LGBTQ+ led comedy intended to appeal to broad audiences, it was also a movie that dared to envision a future where queer couples could have the same dreams and anxieties about getting married as straight couples—18 years before gay marriage was legalized across the U.S.!

But I Think I Do isn’t some utopian sci-fi movie. It’s a charmingly down-to-earth screwball comedy about relationships. About a group of college pals reuniting at a wedding after years apart. About a man torn between his picture-perfect partner and the guy he knows he shouldn’t still have feelings for.

It’s about Bob (the late, great Alexis Arquette), a successful TV writer currently dating a hunky soap star Sterling Scott (Tuc Watkins, in his first film role), who heads to D.C. for his straight friends’ wedding. Only, he didn’t anticipate seeing his former roommate/unrequited crush Brendan (Christian Maelen) there. And he definitely didn’t expect the previously straight Brendan to now be questioning his own sexuality…

After finding success with his debut short film Pool Days, writer-director Brian Sloan got to work on his first feature with the humble goal of making people laugh—delivering a date-night movie that all couples could enjoy, gay or straight.

However, in the mid-’90s, this was an undertaking more ambitious than it sounds. At the time, the still nascent indie film scene was synonymous with heavier themes and darker subject matter. And while the New Queer Cinema movement showed there was a path forward for LGBTQ+ stories on screen, few were as goofy, light-hearted and unabashedly sentimental as I Think I Do.

Sloan’s film premiered at San Francisco’s Frameline Festival during Pride Month ’97, screened at TIFF that fall, and received a limited theatrical release the following spring. In the 25-plus years since, I Think I Do has been hard to come by, either in physical and digital form. Until now.

On April 19, specialty distributor Strand Releasing brings its 4K restoration of I Think I Do to all major Video On Demand platforms—the most widely available the film has ever been—giving audiences a chance to discover (or rediscover) this hidden gem of queer ’90s cinema.

Ahead of the re-release, Queerty reunited director Brian Sloan and star Tuc Watkins for an exclusive conversation, sharing memories of what was both of their feature debuts, reflecting on a very different time to be out and gay in Hollywood, and reveling in the film’s timeless ode to queer joy.

Image Credit: ‘I Think I Do,’ Strand Releasing

QUEERTY: Thank you both so much for the opportunity to take a trip down memory lane with your film I Think I Do, which is so beautiful and funny and really ahead of its time in a number of ways. I think the most natural place to start is the beginning, so Brian, can you tell us about the earliest inklings of an idea for the movie?

BRIAN SLOAN: The original idea was actually about Tuc’s character. This was a story idea I had about a soap opera star in New York, who was sort of living secretly as a gay man—living the mid-’90s gay life, but he was closeted and his agent wanted him to marry a woman.

And as I was working on this, I wasn’t getting very far. I was having trouble finding a feature-length story for that. And I did have a [separate] idea that was kind of a college, dorm-life story, but that wasn’t going anywhere either.

Then a friend of mine from college was getting married, and on the way back from the wedding—which was just so much fun seeing all my friends again—I kind of put these two ideas together in my head. I was like, “Oh, what if the soap star goes to this college wedding with a bunch of friends?” And that’s sort of where this all started. It was kind of an odd solution to two problems that weren’t working, throwing them both together—and then it did work!

TUC WATKINS: Well, this is the first I’m hearing that my character used to have a bigger part in the original—25 years later! Now I’m angry in retrospect! [Laughs.]

SLOAN: It could have been your movie! It could’ve been all you… except that I couldn’t write it. [Laughs.]

Image Credit: ‘I Think I Do,’ Strand Releasing

Tuc, this was the first movie you were ever in, and you actually did come from the world of soaps—you were Sterling Scott, to some extent. What was your first reaction to the script? Did it hit close to home for you?

WATKINS: Yeah, it was the first movie I was ever in. I remember reading it, I remember it was about this sort of self-inflated, big-ego soap opera star who was trying to have a relationship with a guy at the same time. And yeah, I was a gay guy in a soap opera—I was out to everybody that I worked with, but I wasn’t out “publicly.” So it kind of hit home; I felt like, “I get this guy. I know who this guy is.”

My favorite characters are always kind of buffoons who think they’re really smart. And Sterling isn’t the smartest tool in the drawer, so I really liked that about him. He’s sort of a lovable lug. But I really remember the dialogue—the dialogue was so fun, and it was so easy to perform, and it felt so natural.

It was at the the audition where I met Brian and Stephanie Corsalini the casting director. And I remember feeling like, “That went so well—I could really play this part.” And it took a while for the casting to come together, but I finally got the part and it meant the world to me. I was so excited to do it—I’d never done a movie, so I didn’t know the difference between a big budget movie and a small budget movie, I just knew that we were going to make a movie together. And it really did feel like we were all in it together—no one was more important than anyone else. It kind of felt like summer camp!

I totally agree that Sterling is this lovable lug. I think a lesser movie would really try and frame him as the villain, or this bad guy—when in actuality it’s just that he and Bob aren’t really compatible, and I think that speaks to the film’s generous heart. Brian, were you familiar with Tuc’s soap work prior?

SLOAN: No, not at all! I definitely watched a lot of soaps in high school and in college, but at that point, I wasn’t—they did give me a tape, but I honestly think I didn’t see it until after he auditioned.

But, it’s funny: You talk about not depicting this character as a villain, and we were seeing a lot of soap stars coming in for this part. Most people who came in were playing him as a villain, they were kind of over-dramatizing the role and they did not seem to understand the humor in this character. The way he was conceived was as very humorous, but I think people saw when they came in to audition that this was a quote-unquote “indie film.” And, in the ’90s, indie film was considered very serious, you know? So even if I told them this was a comedy, the default was to play the role very seriously.

So Tuc came in, and he was probably the only person that we really laughed at during this audition, because he was just so funny. And when that happens, they just stand out. You’re like, “That’s the one!”

WATKINS: Now I’m remembering: We were in New Jersey in that motel, a one of the rooms was the green room where we all hung out [during the shoot.] One day, we were all watching TV, and I was on General Hospital at the time—so my scenes on General Hospital were playing in the green room, and then we would go on set and shoot scenes with me playing a soap opera actor in the movie! So life was imitating art while we were making the movie. [Laughs.]

Speaking to where we were at culturally, where the industry was—this was by no means the first queer film, the first gay film, or the first film with gay characters in it. But it was still early days, so I Think I Do felt like an anomaly, especially as a comedy. Since this was a first feature for both of you, were either of you concerned how that might impact your career at the time? That it might pigeon-hole you?

SLOAN: For me, when I was in film school, people really said to me out loud: “You’ll ruin your career if you make a movie about gay people.” And that’s when I was in my early 20s, so I was kind of used to that attitude. And it definitely was part of the landscape at that point: if we really wanted to make this sort of a film, we were taking a risk.

But I had done that with my short film [Pool Days] at NYU, and the risks paid off—it got into Sundance, it got distributed. So I was like, “Well, people seem to like it, so I’m going to keep going!” And I definitely had some similar feedback on this film, too, as we were trying to get it made. It was definitely a challenging time to put this kind of material out there because there was not a welcoming world for it, I would say. Though that was starting to change a little bit at that point.

Image Credit: ‘I Think I Do,’ Strand Releasing

WATKINS: Yeah, that was that was still back in the time when—well, the people that were representing me at the time said, “Are you sure you want to do this?” Because they knew I was gay, but I wasn’t out publicly. I mean, I didn’t really have anyone to come out to publicly—no one really was interested in hearing it. It would just have appeared like a publicity stunt if I had gone to a magazine to talk about being gay, because I hadn’t really done anything to come out about. So I was an unknown entity.

And I think the people that represented me thought, “Well, you’re going to want to play straight parts. And playing this part is probably going to preclude you from doing that, especially since you are gay in real life.” And I remember thinking, “This part is so fun, I’ve never been in a movie—I really want to do the part; I don’t care!”

And I also think that, early on, I just really enjoyed acting—I loved it. I never really knew I was going to make a living doing it. Coming from Kansas City, you know, it just didn’t seem like it was in the cards for someone like me. So, to have the opportunity to even be chosen and to do something like that was just a hands-down “yes, absolutely!”

At the same time, I’ve played a lot of gay parts since I Think I Do. And part of the reason I like doing it is because I feel like each one moves the needle forward a little bit for the LGBTQ+ community—not me playing them, but just our our exposure and how the outside world sees us, you know?

SLOAN: And I will say, too, our casting process took an incredibly long time because, as Tuc was mentioning, a lot of people’s agents and managers were just not really getting this product to their clients. A lot of times, agents and managers told us no, and then the actors I would run into later and they were like, “Oh yeah, I’d be into that!”

That is actually the case with Christian Maelen. His manager or agent had passed on this script months back, and he only came in because a friend of his in the office saw him as a [courier,] and they were like, “You should audition for this movie.” So he came into the audition room and Stephanie was like, “Christian, you passed on this two months ago.” And he said, “I’ve never heard of this before!” The fact that an agent would pass on the romantic lead for somebody who’s very young is just kind of… that was the environment back then! And there were so many actors who just wouldn’t consider this type of movie. So, to Tuc’s credit—really to everybody’s credit—making that choice to be a part of this back then was really a big deal.

Image Credit: ‘I Think I Do,’ Strand Releasing

And on the note of casting, I wanted to make sure we had a moment to talk about Alexis Arquette, who I think really does a fabulous job of holding both sides of the film together, and manages to make what Bob’s going through feel very relatable, very human.

SLOAN: Yeah, and Alexis I believe was the first person officially cast in the film. Her involvement really helped us get the project going, because I think there was a write-up in Variety about it. Then, suddenly, the investors were a little bit more like, “Oh, this is really a thing!”

But Alexis was somebody I always had in mind, because I just had seen many of her films—I’d seen Last Exit To Brooklyn when I was in film school, and she did a small movie with Craig Chester where she was more of a romantic lead in the early 1990s. I think I saw it at Sundance and that really impressed me—I just always had Alexis on my mind as somebody for this part. And when we met and talked about it, Alexis just understood what we were trying to do; she knew the assignment and had such a great sense of humor about it.

WATKINS: Alexis and I met on I Think I Do, but then we went on to do a TV series for Showtime [Beggars And Choosers,] two years later, so we worked together in Vancouver for a year. And the thing that I loved about Alexis was—and I hope this comes out the right way—but I feel like she was a sheep in wolf’s clothing. Because she would come into a room and she would bluster and she’d be loud and she’d be fabulous, but off-set, she was so sweet. So we developed this really special relationship with her that started on this movie and grew from there.

Alexis Arquette, circe 1998 | Photo Credit: Getty Images

SLOAN: I really had not seen this movie in many years when I started the process of getting this restored and back into circulation. And I still know the movie really well, but watching it after so many years, seeing her role in it now, I just was so struck by how Alexis is this emotional center for the film.

There’s craziness and madness kind of spinning around her, but she’s sort of the emotional core, and does anchor it all. And if we didn’t have her it wouldn’t have worked. You really need that person who the audience can follow along with, and is really the heart. Watching it again, that really struck me; I felt very lucky that Alexis is this as the lead of our romantic comedy. And she truly is bridging those two stories together.

WATKINS: I remember when we were making it, Brian, you described the movie as nostalgic of the screwball comedies in the 1930s. And now, 25 years later, we’re talking about it I Think I Do itself as nostalgic of early modern gay cinema. It’s interesting that it goes two-fold like that!

SLOAN: Yeah, now we’re nostalgic for that ’90s vibe.The ’90s were great; we had a good time!

It’s interesting saying that because I think, given that you’re also tapping into this throwback screwball comedy style from the ’30s, then you’ve got these great ’70s needle drops with The Partridge Family—it doesn’t necessarily feel dated to me; it feels timeless.

SLOAN: Yeah, I guess that’s true. It’s kind of like having all those different references in different eras does make it not of one time, in some ways. But screwball was definitely among my favorite genre of movies when I was in film school. I worked on a documentary about screwball comedy for PBS, and that’s what got me really watching all of them. And I just was like, “this would be so great with a gay couple at the center of the story?” It seemed like a good match. And my number one note to Alexis always ways, “More Katharine Hepburn!” [Laughs.]

Image Credit: ‘I Think I Do,’ Strand Releasing

You brought up the process of restoring the film, and it has been quite some time since it’s been easily accessible outside of hard-to-find physical media. Of course the idea is that longtime fans will be excited to revisit now, but what do you hope new audiences might take away from I Think I Do, watching it now for the first time?

SLOAN: In a way, it’s sort of back to what my original intent was, which was really just to make a fun date-night movie for people to enjoy. I just loved the idea of people going on dates to see this. And, actually, I’ve met a couple people who ended up going on first dates to it, and then got in relationships with those people! I just think that story is amazing. But, really, I just hope people laugh and enjoy it as a fun romantic comedy.

You know, one thing I remember that was such a big issue when we were making the movie was people were always like, “These guys are talking about getting married, but you can’t do that! What is this? Shouldn’t you change that?” And I’m like, “No, it’s a movie!” You know, obviously, that wasn’t the law of the land at that point, but it should be eventually, and movies are fantasy. So this is what I would want this movie to be—they’re living in a world in which that’s perfectly normal.

So that’s one thing, in retrospect, that I’d love audiences to see now: that at that point, it was certainly not the case. But I always wanted this film to put out this idea that there’s nothing different between the couple getting married and then the couple who are attending the wedding—they’re both equal! Except, obviously, Bob and Sterling have a few more problems. [Laughs.]

Image Credit: ‘I Think I Do,’ Strand Releasing

Right! Watching it now, the mentions of a gay wedding didn’t phase me at all. It’s like, “oh, of course!” But it wasn’t at the time—it was aspirational.

SLOAN: Right, there was this sort of subversive, political aspect of the film, which was totally intentional. The film is set in Washington, D.C. for that reason. Tuc’s character’s discussion about settling down with Bob happens on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial—that was definitely a choice. And that historical aspect of it is important to think about because we were really trying to put across a little message here: Underneath the laughs, underneath the comedy and the romance—this is the way things should be.

WATKINS: And I think, especially those of us in the LGBTQ+ community, we need to know our gay history. And it’s important that we know about gay civil rights and what happened in the ’60s, the sexual revolution in the ’70s, but also modern gay cinema. It’s important to know where we come from, and part of where we come from is the stories that we tell, and movies like I Think I Do, or The Living End, or Trick from the ’90s. These are movies that I think, for people who are coming up, it’s interesting to find out what we used to be like.

There’s probably a lot of things in I Think I Do that Brian and I aren’t even aware of right now, that are somehow coded in a way that we wouldn’t code today. And it’d be really interesting for us to watch this together, and see how it has changed. But I think young people will be able to watch something like I Think I Do and not only laugh, but see what it was like not that long ago, and how we get to behave and live more freely now, and appreciate that.

Beginning April 19, I Think I Do is available for digital rental or purchase via Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV / iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and YouTube TV.

Image Credit: ‘I Think I Do,’ Strand Releasing

Don't forget to share:

Help make sure LGBTQ+ stories are being told...

We can't rely on mainstream media to tell our stories. That's why we don't lock Queerty articles behind a paywall. Will you support our mission with a contribution today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated