'The Crown's' Josh O'Connor Reunites with Director Francis Lee for Queer Horror Film

Saturday April 10, 2021
Originally published on April 10, 2021

Josh O'Connor in "God's Own Country"
Josh O'Connor in "God's Own Country"  (Source:IMDb)

This week it was announced that actor Josh O'Connor ("The Crown") and writer/director Frances Lee ("God's Own Country," "Ammonite") are planning to work again, this time on a gay horror film.

Before he became an international star as Prince Charles in "The Crown," Josh O'Connor starred as the gay sheep farmer who becomes involved with a male Romanian migrant worker (Alec Secareanu). O'Connor went on to numerous acting nominations for the role, winning a British Independent Film Awards for Best Actor.

The film was directed by Francis Lee, whose latest film is the lesbian period drama "Ammonite" that stars Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan (available for streaming on Hulu).

Josh O'Connor and Alec Sec?reanu in "God's Own Country"  (Source: IMDB)

This week it was announced that O'Connor and Lee are planning to work again, this time on a gay horror film, Film Stage reported.

"In a profile for Esquire, "the director revealed that Josh O'Connor, who led his remarkable debut film 'God's Own Country' will lead this project," wrote Film Stage. "While he wouldn't disclose the novel he's adapting for his third feature, it was noted it will touch on 'class and queerness,' following 'a sad young man alone in an epic wilderness.' Since 'God's Own Country,' O'Connor has starred in 'Emma' and 'The Crown.' "

"The worlds he creates," O'Connor told Esquire about Lee's creative process, "he lives in for years, before filming, during filming and after. So many film-makers just go from project to project but the magic of Francis is he can't. I know it can be really painful for him, and traumatic, but ultimately it's healing. 'Ammonite' has had its struggles, as 'God's Own Country' did, but he has to go through that process to get bigger and better."

Hopefully O' Connor's experience with this film won't be as grueling as with "God's Own Country." Esquire reported that he lost so much weight he ended up in hospital on a drip.

Frances Lee  (Source: IMDB)

In a December, 2020 interview with Film Stage, Lee said: "My favorite genre is horror. I've always wanted the opportunity to make a really, really fucking scary horror film. So I'm working on that. And I'm working on another personal project. I guess that's all I can say at the moment."

He described the film in an interview with Metro Weekly: "It's about deep intimate human relationships, again. It's a period piece. But it's set in the 20th century. And it is a horror film."

Lee also touched upon the controversy of straight actors playing LGBTQ roles. "I think it's very, very complex," he explained, citing himself as the driving force behind the films he's made. "In terms of actors, it's a real tricky one, I think. Because when I first meet an actor, a question I don't ask is 'Who do you have sex with? Who are you attracted to?' And I don't do that for various reasons. Firstly, because I think sexuality is quite a wide spectrum and people can define themselves within that spectrum any which way they like. I couldn't tell you how any of these actors identify in terms of their sexuality. I know who they might currently be married to or dating, but I don't know how they would identify themselves."

He added that his worry is that if a rule, "let's say only gay actors can play gay parts — then what happens if a gay actor goes up for a heterosexual part? Is that okay or not? And I would worry that they would be discriminated against for heterosexual parts.

"It is complicated. I guess you have to look at the filmmaker. One of the things that upsets me sometimes is when I get asked by journalists 'Am I only ever going to make just gay films?' And I worry about that question because, first of all, they're not going to ask that question to a heterosexual director. And second of all, I don't like the way in which it's framed that, in some way, queer stories are lesser than heterosexual stories. Why wouldn't I continue to make stories about queer people? And then it brings in that debate, can straight directors make films about gay people?"

The reclusive writer/director "lives alone in a wooden hut on the side of a steep hill, in the windswept Yorkshire countryside," wrote Esquire. He described to Metro Weekly the difficulties he has had during the pandemic: "Well, I mean, to be brutally frank, I live in this wooden hut on the side of a hill in the middle of nowhere. And on top of that, this particular area where I live, in Yorkshire, has been pretty much on complete lockdown, apart from three weeks, since March. And so that isolation has really been tough. It's been very, very difficult. And it's been very, very lonely and isolating, and I've felt very distant from everything and everybody."

One thing he's looking forward to is returning to the cinemas to watch a film. "Going to the cinema, for me, has always felt a bit like going to church. It's my safe space. It's the space where I've learned things. I've seen resonance on screen. I've been able to have a collective experience with other people, and go on journeys with characters. And I miss it terribly. I hope — I really hope — that at some point, when it's safe, we are able to have collective experiences again, cinema being one of those."

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