'Boy Meets Boy' Director Daniel Sánchez López Talks Queer Romance

Thursday December 2, 2021
Originally published on November 12, 2021

Matthew James Morrison and Louis Labron-Johnson in "Boy Meets Boy"
Matthew James Morrison and Louis Labron-Johnson in "Boy Meets Boy"  

From the opening moments of director and co-writer Daniel Sánchez López's sweet, affecting drama "Boy Meets Boy" we get a sense of who the two boys in question are. Berlin native Johannes (Alexis Koutsoulis) is partnered and living a domestic life that's stable, but maybe a little rote. British tourist Harry (Matthew James Morrison) is eager to hook up via apps, and these encounters, while presumably fun, don't leave an emotional impression on him.

All of this is set out in wordless scenes before the action shifts to a gay club, where Johannes ends up searching for his lost (or possibly stolen) wallet. Now without money or ID, Johannes simply heads back out onto the dance floor — and that's where these two strangers meet and, after just a few moments, share a kiss.

Normally you might expect the two of them to head right to Harry's hotel room, but that's not the story López wants to tell. Instead, the two young men end up spending the next day together, forging a deeper connection that ends up being the reason they eventually end up in bed, rather than the other way around. The situation being what it is — Johannes settled with a partner, Harry a transient leaving later that day — their time is limited, but the film (itself of brief duration, running just over an hour) is all about exactly this: The brevity of life, and, within that short pace of years, the possibility... perhaps the necessity... of fleeting, and yet meaningful, connections.

López, who is originally from Spain but lives in Berlin, chatted with EDGE about the film's charming leads, the challenges and upsides of making a movie in English, and what it means for him personally and artistically to be living in another country.

Daniel Sánchez López
Daniel Sánchez López  

EDGE: Unlike many gay-themed movies, the two "boys" in question — Johannes and Harry — don't start off the movie in bed. In fact, they spend most of the movie working their way toward going to bed. What was behind the choice to tell the story this way?

Daniel Sánchez López: I wanted to make a movie about connection. I felt that the first thing I needed to show was a kiss between them, and not to just make it a story about two people just having sex. So that's why they kiss underneath the title in the credits, you know, at the beginning. And then I can make a movie about two people getting to know each other, rather than a movie about coming out, or forbidden love, or all these flashcard narratives of queer cinema I didn't want to follow.

EDGE: It seems like all of that is implicit in the title, "Boy Meets Boy."

Daniel Sánchez López: Yes, and also because of the [1984] Leos Carax film "Boy Meets Girl." I thought, "How many boy meets girl stories there are! Maybe we need to tell a boy meets boy story instead."

EDGE: "Boy Meets Boy" seems like a story of identity. Johannes loses his wallet and his ID card at the start of the film; Harry, who says that he can't have sex with anybody more than once, seems willing to change that about himself when it comes to Johannes. The two cause one another to re-examine who they are in fundamental ways. Am I reading the film correctly here?

Daniel Sánchez López: For sure it's about identity, it's about learning something about yourself that you didn't know. I think Johannes ends up being more like Harry in the end, and Harry ends up being more like Johannes. They reflect each other like in a mirror, and they get information about themselves that maybe the didn't know. I think Johannes starts off as being romantic, and pure, and then he sees that all of this is bullshit. And Harry starts off more about sex than a romantic person who would love to try and have more with someone. I think it's about being twenty and discovering that you are not necessarily the person that you thought you were.

Louis Labron-Johnson and Matthew James Morrison in "Boy Meets Boy"
Louis Labron-Johnson and Matthew James Morrison in "Boy Meets Boy"  

EDGE: You live in Berlin, so it makes sense to shoot the film there, but what was the reason for making the film in English rather than German, or your first language, Spanish?

Daniel Sánchez López: Everything was in English, and the character of Harry was English always meant to be English. The script was in English, the co-writer was English, and all my lines [that I wrote] are in English in that movie, so it happened organically — it was a need more than a choice. And then, because my mother tongue clearly was not English, I think that helped me to find solutions for how to find a natural style in the dialogue. I was encouraging the actors to make the dialogue their own. I think in that sense the movie got more honest, because it comes from them, from their hearts.

EDGE: How did you go about the casting? Did you start with Johannes (Alexis Koutsoulis) and then look for a good match in terms of an actor to play Harry? Or was it the other way around?

Daniel Sánchez López: No, I was looking for both at the same time. I chose the ten best actors out of 100, and then we did a workshop where the whole day we were doing exercises, we were talking about our experiences as gay men. We were meeting each other, knowing each other better. At the end of the day I asked them, "Who would have a date with from these ten people?" And Harry and Johannes — Matthew and Alexis — chose themselves. I tried them in a scene and then, when I saw them in the video, they were the best. They weren't just the best, they were the only ones. I didn't have a plan B or C or D — they were the only ones that had chemistry and that you could really feel there was something between them, kind of like, wow, magic!

Matthew James Morrison and Louis Labron-Johnson in "Boy Meets Boy"
Matthew James Morrison and Louis Labron-Johnson in "Boy Meets Boy"  

EDGE: Had you always meant for the character of Johannes to be a dancer, or was that something you wrote in when Alexis Koutsoulis was cast?

Daniel Sánchez López: Johannes being a dancer is something that I wrote from the beginning, and it was a problem because Alexis is not a dancer. We needed to make him a dancer in one day! So, a choreographer came, explained to him some steps, and he danced.

[Laughter]

EDGE: How did it end up being the case that you co-wrote this film with co-writer, Hannah Renton? Were you looking for a female co-writer to bring a different perspective to the movie's themes of identity and connection?

Daniel Sánchez López: We had always been wanting to do something together. I think I wasn't looking for any feminine perspective, and she wasn't looking for a gay perspective. It was my best friend in the UK, and the perfect one to write with me about the theme of loneliness, and the experience of being lonely in a big city. I think a straight woman can think like me, like a gay man.

I've been in Berlin for eleven years now, and it's an interesting experience, being an ex-pat. I love the idea of missing my country more than living in my country. This is a personal thing, you know? And when it comes to making connections, I think it's easier in a way, because most of the time the people I'm making connections with people who are not German. So we already share something. It's really easy to meet people, but it's not so easy to keep those people forever.

Louis Labron-Johnson and Matthew James Morrison in "Boy Meets Boy"
Louis Labron-Johnson and Matthew James Morrison in "Boy Meets Boy"  

EDGE: Is that part of what into what went into the story of two strangers meeting but then having to part again after a short time?

Daniel Sánchez López: What's really important is to make a tribute, or an homage, to the brief encounters that have changed my life — people who I met once, and never met them again. But the impact of that connection will stay with me. You have friends, you have family, but you also have people that you connect with once, and they disappear. I wanted to make a movie about that.

EDGE: What new projects are you working on?

Daniel Sánchez López: I am producing a documentary on a community of trans women in Moscow. And I'm also writing my next film that is going to be about a queer Romanian immigrant in Spain of 15 years old who wants to become a bullfighter. I like to call it the bullfighting "Billy Elliot."

"Boy Meets Boy" is available for streaming on various platforms> For more on the film, visit this website.

Watch the trailer to "Boy Meets Boy":