Bruce LaBruce, the director of such iconoclastic, provocative indie films as “No Skin Off My Ass” (1993), “Super 8 ½” (1994), “Hustler White” (1996), “The Raspberry Reich” (2004) and 2010’s “L.A. Zombie” starring gay adult megastar Francois Sagat — is once again making waves in all-male adult with the first of a series of short films produced by New York-based, XBIZ Award-winning CockyBoys.
The first installment, titled “Diablo in Madrid” — “Heaven and Hell collide and the results are explosive!” is the tagline — and starring Allen King and Sean Ford with Colby Keller, is available now. CockyBoys founder Jake Jaxson spoke to XBIZ about the genesis of the project and how he bonded with LaBruce over a shared desire to upend common tropes of gay adult films.
[LaBruce] comes to pornography with a clear sense of revolution — queer revolution. Gay pornography may be the last bastion of true, queer radicalism.
“I feel like I always wanted to be a Bruce LaBruce,” recalls Jaxson. “In college, I was this white, conservative, religious Southerner, growing up in New Orleans. And this guy was so cool and the movies he was making were so cool. At the time I was making documentaries about restaurants in New Orleans. I was not what I am now,” he recalls with a chuckle.
“I was doing stuff that was on PBS and the Travel Channel. I was very, very safe and conservative in that sense. When I first started [watching] his movies, I was just completely — it was, whoa! This is a whole other space. I was also starting to watch Warhol movies. I was discovering that there was life outside Louisiana. I’ve always loved his work. There was just so much about it that was irreverent. It always stuck with me.”
The two filmmakers initially crossed paths at a retrospective of the LaBruce’s oeuvre at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, via Dean Monroe, who had just shot “Answered Prayers” for CockyBoys and had also, by coincidence, appeared in “Raspberry Reich.” About a year later, LaBruce tracked down Tayte Hanson, a marquee performer for CockyBoys, to discuss a possible collaboration and the filmmakers were reintroduced.
“The first thing he pitched to me was a possible follow-up to ‘Hustler White’ and the ideas kept getting crazier and weirder and more outrageous,” Jaxson said.
However the performer LaBruce had eyed for the main role — the original film turned its handsome leading man, Tony Ward, into a cult icon — was unavailable and LaBruce decided to moved on.
“It was there for just a second and then it was gone,” Jaxson says, noting the parallels with adult filmmaking. “You have to jump at things when you have the chance. Sometimes the opportunity doesn’t last very long.”
He assured LaBruce the door would stay open to him and before long the script for “Diablo in Madrid” arrived.
The story — about a devil provoking the mourners in a cemetery and “an epic battle” with an angel — immediately piqued Jaxson’s interest.
“Our logo is a little devil with horns and a halo,” he says. “In an odd way, I felt like the universe brought us this project. I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
Although conceived as a short film with a small cast, pre-production presented unique challenges for Jaxson, who shoots most of the CockyBoys projects close to home in New York or at his wooded property in Westchester.
LaBruce “thinks cinematically. He’s a filmmaker; he thinks big. He brought a lot to the table,” Jaxson notes. “A lot of people want to work with him and he brought a great crew together. But these things are not inexpensive to make. It’s triple what we would normally spend on a scene.”
Jaxson emphasizes that the short is not about simply plugging in a notable director to shoot a standard porn scene. “He’s bringing in his view of the world,” Jaxson says. “I’ve always loved his point of view in terms of radicalism. He grew up in a completely different time, a radical time. You can see those elements in his filmmaking. He comes to filmmaking, and pornography, with a clear sense of revolution — queer revolution. Gay pornography may be the last bastion of true,queer radicalism because we’ve now become just completely homogenized.”
Despite the expense and unique challenges, Jaxson describes “a lot of benefit” to making the films, including a specific point-of-view as well as a sterling opportunity for his stable of performers.
“They’re ambitious,” Jaxson said. “They want a legacy and to work outside of [CockyBoys]and this was my chance to give that to them, and to work with someone I completely admire. I had to look at what makes economic sense. I’m not going to buy any new art this year,” he laughed. “Will I ever make my money back? Who knows? But I’m really, really proud of the collaboration.
The project was initially envisioned as a series of loosely linked shorts with characters carrying over from one film to the next (one of the shorts, a satire of gay conversion therapy, involves homosexual terrorists kidnapping straight guys and “fuckwashing” them, rather than brainwashing, into becoming gay). However, Jaxson and LaBruce were so pleased with the final results that they’re holding off on releasing the complete X-rated version — titled “Fleapit,” which makes sense in context — while a non-explicit version — currently titled “It’s Not the Pornographer Who is Perverse” — is being submitted to several international film festivals. (“It’s not provocative at all,” Jaxson laughs.)
In addition to King, Ford and Keller, the cast includes Calvin Banks, Levi Karter, Dato Foland, Francois Sagat and Arad Winwin. The first two films were shot in Madrid; the latter pair in Berlin.
Given the erotic nature of so much of his work, Jaxson expressed surprise that LaBruce hadn’t made more explicit erotica.
“I asked him about that,” Jaxson said. “He said, ‘Most people in the porn industry don’t like me. They all think that I’m too good for it or that I’m trying to make something that’s not porn.’ And I said, ‘Well, then no one likes me, either.’ I can’t really speak for him, but I think he feels like this is [about] getting back to resistance.”