Two lovers, torn apart by forces beyond their control, is a tale so old Romeo and Julietbut how many love stories include Russia from the 1970s, a symbolic ballet dance, and jet fighters used as metaphors for sexual climaxes? Phoenix is in a separate class, gay romance that can best be described Everything that heaven allows meets Top Gun. Did I mention that it is also based on a real story?

Digital Trends recently spoke with the film’s director, Peeter Rebane, and lead star and co-writer, Tom Prior, about the challenges of translating real history on the big screen, what cinematic influences contributed to the film and what viewers should take away from it. Phoenix after the completion of the final credits.

Digital trends: What made you adapt Sergei’s story to the big screen?

Peter Rebane: Human history. I received the original book and read it at home one weekend. It literally made me cry and I felt I had to turn it into a feature film. And then I started writing it.

Tom Pryor: Peter asked me to play Sergei and I read the original story of the first draft of the screenplay he had started writing. I fell in love with the history and the combination of genres I love, which are action movies and Cold War-era dramas. But it also explores this line between friendship and more. And this is a true story. It’s really inspiring to see people follow their hearts at all costs. So, it was a huge combination of different factors that I really liked.

Did you read the memoirs after reading the script?

Volume: Yes. In fact, I read the memoirs long after working on the script, because I wanted to look at the script before being too informed about the real story. Meeting the real Sergei in Moscow before he died was also invaluable for the whole experience.

When did you start producing this film?

Peter: We went into production in early 2018 and filmed from September to November.

Where did you shoot?

Peter: Mostly in Estonia and then three days in Moscow for the exteriors and a few days in Malta for the scenes in the Black Sea.

Were you influenced by something specific while designing the film or when shooting it?

Sergei and Roman in the ocean at Firebird.

Peter: Not exactly. Some people said it was like Brokeback Mountain meets Top Gunbut this was not intentional. I really appreciate the work of directors who have managed to bridge the gap between the author and the mainstream like Stanley Kubrick.

What was it like to collaborate with each other?

Peter: We were introduced by a producer from LA and that was the intention for [Tom] to play the lead role. From the first moment it was clear to me that he is really perfect in terms of subtle nuances of character. He also brought this into writing. While I’m probably more structured, he’s a lot right now as an actor and writer. He also brought this understanding to the broader context of what we need to explain to the viewer who is unfamiliar with the context of the 1970s and the Cold War.

Volume, how to create a link on the screen with Oleg Zagorodnythe actor who plays Roman?

Roman looks ahead to Firebird.

Volume: Well, it was an interesting challenge. When he first walked in the door during a casting in Moscow, it was as if Roman had walked in the door. Before he even said anything, he was like the quality he possessed, just the way he is. Since he didn’t speak so much English, it was a big problem for him and for me because I didn’t speak so much Russian. At first it was very difficult to understand how the hell we were going to create dynamism and chemistry. But then we finally trusted the process and spent more time together, even if it wasn’t necessarily talking, and we explored the physical presence of togetherness and the space between the two characters.

Which was the hardest scene to shoot Phoenix?

Peter: Well, what I was most afraid of were the intimate scenes, which were very easy because of the chemistry and choreography of Tom and Oleg. I think the most difficult technical scenes were the sea scenes, where we were in 12-degree water for 12 hours, and the actors had to be there for hours and hours in the cold water.

Emotionally, the New Year’s Eve dinner series and the next scene with Sergei alone in his bedroom were so emotionally difficult for everyone. And we had set aside half a day for that, and in the evening we just stopped and said to ourselves, “Look, we have to stop. He’s still gone. ” We finally got to the point where we felt we were there emotionally and we could do the scene honestly. ”

Volume: I agree. There are so many layers of dynamics in the New Year’s Eve dinner scene and it was very difficult to know how to react. The farewell speech that Sergei gave was really difficult and in fact is almost the only time in the whole shooting schedule in which the exact next scene in the script was the one we shot the next one, when Sergei is alone in the room.

This is a cathartic moment. As an actor, I didn’t really have to do anything there. I just literally went and sat in the corner of this room on this bed and the emotions just came out. It was like an incredible relief to have fought in the previous scene.

What you want viewers to take when they see Phoenix?

Roman and Serge are sitting in a theater in Firebird.

Peter: Let’s create a little more compassion, understanding and awareness that things are still quite difficult for most of the LGBT community around the world. And even Florida, which introduces all these horrible lawswhy someone’s work? For example, why am I worried? Let’s focus on the important things that are education and health care and care for the elderly, not these endless laws and debates about who you can love.

Volume: I would really be happy if people came out of the movie feeling a little bolder, a little more hopeful and a little more to follow their heart and follow their dreams. Something like Sergei in his life. Follow your heart, because at the end of the day it should be what makes you feel much more alive when you are in tune.

If you follow the person you really want to love and who you want to be with, or Sergei follows his dreams of going to theater school, you have to do everything that makes you feel complete. Let’s hope Phoenix leads to a better understanding of the LGBTQ community and what it really means to have love between two people despite the chances against them.

Phoenix it is currently being played in cinemas across the country.

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