Justin Kuritzkes attends BAFTA Hosts Los Angeles Special Screening Of "Challengers" at Crescent Theater on April 18, 2024 in Los Angeles, California Source: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

'Challengers' Writer, Director Teaming Up for 'Queer' New Movie

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 2 MIN.

"Challengers" may have homoeroticism built into it, but is it really queer? That's not a question anyone will have to ask about Luca Guadagnino's next film project with screenwriter Justin Kuritzkes. The collaborators are set to adapt a novel from famously LGBTQ+ writer William S. Burroughs – and the novel in question is none other than the definitively-titled "Queer."

The film is sure to draw keen attention, just as it has already drawn top-shelf talent. In addition to the marquee names of its director and writer, the movie stars Daniel Craig and Drew Starkey, IndieWire noted.

Kuritzkes described how the project came together, telling IndieWire, "One day, on the set of 'Challengers,' [Luca] just gave me this book and said, 'Read this tonight and tell me if you want to write it for me.'"

Burroughs' works are singular in style and perspective, often focusing in drug use and LGBTQ+ characters. His most famous novel, "Naked Lunch," was long deemed to be unfilmable, but David Cronenberg – a master of the body horror genre – managed the transition with the 1991 Peter Weller-starring feature.

Turning "Queer" into a screenplay wasn't so fraught, Kuritzkes told the entertainment outlet.

"It's a pretty wild book, but the characters were there, and the story was there, and the point of view was there, the voice was there," the scribe related. "And so it was a process of the meeting place between Burroughs' voice and his point of view, and my voice and my point of view, and then Luca's voice and his point of view, and trying to hold all that."

Indeed, the screenwriter said, his was a task of "trying to be a bridge between these two brilliant guys, these two brilliant artists, William S. Burroughs on the one hand and Luca on the other, and really trying to facilitate this meeting place with the two of them."

"To be in the midst of that," Kurtizkes added, "I found it so, so gratifying."

His "Challengers" experience made the adaptation less of a, well, challenge, the writer said.

"Because I was in the middle of making a movie with Luca, I knew what kinds of scenes he was going to like filming," Kurtizkes explained. "I would be reading the book and thinking about how I would do the scene, and I would catch myself going, 'Luca's not going to like that,' then I would write it a little differently because of what I had already learned about Luca's process."

Once the screenplay was done, Kurtizkes said, "we were able to put it together really because it was already very much a movie he was ready to make, a movie he knew how to make."

Even so, exactly how the book will translate to the screen is an intriguing question. Steve Buscemi had intended to attempt a movie version of the book in 2011, though that project never materialized.

Written in the early 1950s, but not published until 1985, "Queer" describes an American's quest for love and an exotic drug experience in Mexico as he drifts from bar to bar, fixates on a fellow American man, and seeks yage, a key ingredient to the hallucinogenic preparation ayahuasca.

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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