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“Woody Allen doesn’t own New York.”
Ira Sachs was claiming his stake on the city before a screening of his latest film, “Love Is Strange,” at the Tribeca Grand on Monday night. “I wanted to present a different New York, and my movie is really mine.”
In his film, a couple, Ben and George, can finally get married after 39 years together, but their wedding brings with it unexpected complications both in their professional and personal lives. In other words, not the kind of New York story one can expect from Allen (or Spike Lee or Martin Scorsese for that matter) anytime soon.
For Ben and George, Sachs needed seasoned actors who could convey the ups and downs of a long relationship and he found them in Alfred Molina and John Lithgow, who are both straight off-screen, each in long-term marriages.
“The truth is, it’s all about imagination. That’s what we get paid for. We get paid to imagine and that’s what we do,” Molina said of playing against Lithgow, a longtime friend. “You don’t even have to be in love to play a lover, necessarily. But if you’ve had a good experience, it helps.”
Though now it’s commonplace for straight actors to take on gay roles — just see HBO’s “The Normal Heart” — Lithgow was a frontrunner, first coming to prominence by playing a transgender former football player in “The World According to Garp,” in which he costarred with the late Robin Williams.
The actor is in the midst of a busy season — a day earlier he closed “King Lear,” in which he played the title role, at the Public Theater in New York. Next, he’ll appear in one of the fall’s blockbuster Broadway productions, Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance” opposite Glenn Close.
“I haven’t given that one a single thought,” he said. “I just closed ‘King Lear’ last night, opened this one tonight, and tomorrow I start thinking about that one.”
Following the screening, Parker Posey, Denis O’Hare, Tommy Tune, Paul Haggis and Nicole Miller headed to the Cinema Society- and Grey Goose-sponsored after party at the Jimmy at The James hotel. Marisa Tomei, who plays an important supporting role in Sachs’ film, was one of the first to arrive. She knows a thing or two about New York in the movies — she’s a native of Brooklyn and she was once even directed by the late, great New York director Sidney Lumet in “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.” What did she make of Sachs’ version of the city?
“There were very intimate details of New York, like the way ivy glows in the window, the way it grows on the side of a building, the way [Sachs] shot the arch in Washington Square,” she said. “He gave New York the star treatment.”