In the mid 1990s the film Jeffrey seemed fast on its way to becoming a gay classic, but since then many seem to have forgotten about it (indeed it’s been out of print on DVD in the UK for years). For those who do know it though, one of the most memorable things is undoubtedly Patrick Stewart’s incredibly flamboyant Sterling.
It was the first gay role Stewart had ever played, which he took on shortly after spending seven years cementing his stern manliness and sci-fi god credentials in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Now Patrick has been reminiscing about the film with DNA magazine, and how liberating it was. He says, “Jeffrey was the first. It was 1994 and we had just wrapped the seventh and final season of Star Trek and I said to my agent, ‘Find me a job. I don’t care what i is but let it be as far removed from science fiction and outer space as possible!’ And very shortly he rang me and said, ‘I’ve got it! There’s a movie they’re making called Jeffrey…’ I had seen Paul Rudnick’s wonderful play here in New York and I met with the director.
“I think that was my first time playing an openly gay character and I enjoyed it immensely. Having led a life in the theater, I had been in the company of homosexual men and women from [the time I was] a teenager. It was familiar and completely normal. When we were prepping for the movie, the production designer said he wanted to have lots of photographs around Sterling’s apartment — of them on holiday and with friends and so forth — so how would you feel if you and Bryan [Batt] and Steve Weber [who played Jeffrey] go off and walk around the West Village. It was a Saturday afternoon during a hot summer, so without quite knowing exactly where he was with his camera we spent a couple of hours just hanging out and it was the loveliest experience. Liberating. And intimate. And fun.”
Jeffrey itself is a comedy about a gay man who decides that with the spectre of AIDS all around him, he should become celibate. But in true rom-com fashion he then immediately meets his perfect man, and must come to terms with his fears if he’s ever going to find love.