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Searchlight Denied ‘Fire Island’ Director Andrew Ahn’s Request for Penises Onscreen, ‘One for Each Orgy’

Searchlight "came back to me being like, 'We’ll give you as many butts as you want.'"

Joel Kim Booster in the film FIRE ISLAND. Photo by Jeong Park. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

“Fire Island”

Jeong Park

What’s “Fire Island” without seeing behind the bulge?

Director Andrew Ahn detailed the compromise on set between Searchlight and the production over whether or not to show male genitalia.

“I was like, ‘I want a dick,'” Ahn told Vulture. “It’s Fire Island. It’s sex scenes. It’s orgies. Like, you’re going to see dick.”

Ahn continued, “I understood that erect dick was going to push us into NC-17 territory, which would seriously limit who could see the movie. But I remember asking, ‘Can I have two soft penises, one for each orgy?’ And to their credit, our producers were like, ‘How many? Where?’ Then, finally, they came back to me being like, ‘We’ll give you as many butts as you want.’ And I was like, ‘You know what? I’ll take that deal.’ I could have put more butts in it.”

“Fire Island,” written by lead star Joel Kim Booster, gives Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice” a queer twist. The exaggerated sexual politics of LGBTQ+ destination hotspot Fire Island proved to be the perfect remote backdrop for the summer rom-com.

“I remember thinking the people on the island all felt like the most evolved form of their Pokémon. The bears were bear-ier, the twinks were twink-ier,” Ahn said of first stepping foot on Fire Island to helm the eponymous film.

Ahn originally set out to direct the script, then titled “Trip,” as a series for Quibi: After the streamer folded, Ahn became attached to the Searchlight-Hulu feature iteration.

“When I didn’t get it, I was bummed. I wasn’t necessarily surprised; they had told me that they wanted these shows to be superfast, really frenetic — and it’s not my natural pace,” Ahn said of being turned down by Quibi. “I do think that, considering the priorities of Quibi, it made sense that they didn’t want to hire me. It just feels like vindication that I got it as a movie once it got set up at Searchlight.”

Ahn added, “I do think that as a film, the production had different priorities, and those aligned with my sensibilities better: a sense of cinema, humanity. I always wanted the project to have heart underneath the comedy. I think Searchlight responded to that. For Joel, it was having another gay Asian American who could deal with the nuances of that challenge of representation.”

As for his next project, Ahn just has one goal: “I’m dying to put taint on the screen. I just want a good taint. It’s such an underrepresented erogenous zone. Representation matters.”

Ahn previously told IndieWire that he “never wanted to shy away” from the multi-faceted queer community and its sociopolitical and racial undercurrents.

“Joel has had many experiences on the island where he’s felt discriminated against and we had to acknowledge that,” Ahn said. “To make a Fire Island movie without that would feel like we were sanitizing the experience. So we really went for it.”

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