The groundbreaking film Red, White & Royal Blue is based on the LGBT romance novel by Casey McQuiston and was adapted by celebrated playwright-screenwriter Matthew Lopez, who makes his directorial feature debut, and co-written by screenwriter Ted Malawer.
New ground for LGBTQ+ romantic comedies was broken with Hulu’s Fire Island, a funny and enjoyable comedy with a sense of community from director Andrew Ahn, Nicholas Stoller’s Bros, about two gay men in Manhattan who avoid commitment but are drawn to each other, The Ignorant Angels is a not-to-be-missed Italian original series by filmmaker Ferzan Ozpetek. When Massimo, Antonia’s husband, is killed in an accident, she discovers that her husband was having an affair with a young man; Heartstopper shed a positive light on teenage Queer culture, and the latest adaptation of Netflix’ Boys In The Band, the Tony Award-winning play that changed a generation, following a group of nine gay men who gather for a birthday party in 1968 New York City. Not forgetting the superb New Zealand drama Punch.
When Matthew López was first approached about adapting Red, White & Royal Blue, the idea was to turn it into a musical for the stage
Matthew López is the first Latino writer to win the Tony Award for Best Play for The Inheritance, directed by Stephen Daldry, inspired by the 1910 novel Howards End by E. M. Forster. The play premiered in London at the Young Vic in March 2018, before transferring to Broadway in November 2019. It was called “the most important American play of the century.”
When López read the novel Red, White & Royal Blue, he saw it as a film, in bringing the story to the screen, the first-time filmmaker hoped to make a contemporary rom-com that would stand the test of time.
“When I read the book over the weekend, I just fell in love with it,” says Lopez, who was captivated by the main characters after reading the novel.
“For me, especially Alex, you know, I’m a queer Latine, biracial son of the South, and so is he,” López said. “I had never encountered a book before that had a character like him at the center, and it really just made all of my imagination, you know, light up.”
“Growing up in the 1980s and early 1990s, my experience was a lot more like Henry’s than it was Alex’s.,” says López. “Alex’s story is kind of only possible right now, and it’s not something that I had in my life growing up. I knew what it was like to pretend I was something I’m not. I knew what it was like to believe that if I wasn’t this thing in the world, that I believe that I’m supposed to be, I would be letting down my family; I would be out of step with the nation. So even though Alex demographically and sort of personally checks a lot of boxes for me, in my experience, the pain of being a young queer kid in the 1980s and ’90s is really reflected very strongly for me in Henry’s story. It is what allowed me to access Henry. I think in some ways, Henry represents my past, and Alex represents my present and my future.”
“Every reader of a novel is a film director while they’re reading the book. They have control over everything: costume, design, casting. As you’re reading a book, it’s your little movie in your head. And with a book as popular as this one, you’ve got millions and millions of people with their own version of it in their head,” says Lopez.
An Intimate Affair
“We both came into it with such a level of respect for the book and for the script and what we were there to create,” Zakhar Perez notes. “It wasn’t anybody’s show. It wasn’t Matthew saying, ‘This is my film, I’m doing it this way and you have to do it like this,’ and it wasn’t Nick coming in and going, ‘Well, I want to portray Henry this way.’ It wasn’t me coming in and going, ‘This is how Alex has to be.’ It was all of us collaboratively sitting together and talking it all out. This is where I like to come from, asking questions. I think that built our trust, that built our understanding and gave us the shorthand as soon as we got into filming.”
“We had an incredible intimacy coordinator, Robbie Taylor Hunt, who was very much integral in really giving me the language that I think I needed when it came to the intimacy and creating this really sweet, very hungry at times, bond,” Galitzine adds. “A really sweet and tender love between the two of them. It was a very caring set, and Taylor was also very, very helpful in that as well.”
“Matthew is so communicative, and he’s so open as a person that there was really nothing off limits,” Galitzine says. “He was just really passionate and really hell-bent on telling Casey’s story, albeit in a slightly different way from the book. I think you always have to deviate in some capacity when you do a book-to-film adaptation. But we were talking before about people feeling seen, and that was always at the top of his agenda. I can’t really imagine anyone else directing it. His passion was so palpable every single day on set.”
Zakhar Perez notes that he and López both come from the theater world, so there was already a shorthand between them in work style. “I love a vertically integrated writer-director,” he says. “I can go to them, ask the questions, get back to set, and I don’t have to do all this runaround. It’s like looking up something in the dictionary. He just created this togetherness and a safe space for all of us to play and be vulnerable and just set the tone for the entire summer. And I can’t say that about all directors I work with.”
“It’s a crazy thing to be intimate like that with your friend,” Galitzine added. “And we want people to fall in love with these characters because their love has to be real.”
“I hope people remember what it feels like to believe in their ability to change the world through the simple act of being themselves. There is a power to fairytales, which is why fairytales are one of the earliest forms of storytelling because they are our fondest hopes and wishes set within a framework that we can understand that the world is perfected in fairytales because that’s possible because we cannot often perfect the world on our own,” says Lopez.
Red, White & Royal Blue was filmed at various locations throughout England. As you might have imagined, the production did not have access to the actual White House for the scenes set there. Those sets were built on a soundstage. “We took a deep dive into researching the White House, so the construction is based on the actual building,” production designer Miren Marañón said in a press brief.
The story revolves around the transcontinental romance between Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez) — first son to Uma Thurman’s Commander in Chief — and Prince Henry Fox-Mountchristen-Windsor (Nicholas Galitzine); a long-simmering feud gives way to an unexpected connection which then leads to steamy rendezvouses during polo matches and political conventions.
Matthew Lopez is an American playwright and screenwriter. His play The Inheritance, directed by Stephen Daldry, is inspired by the 1910 novel Howards End by E. M. Forster. The play premiered in London at the Young Vic in March 2018, before transferring to Broadway in November 2019. It was called “the most important American play of the century.” It won “Best Play” awards in both London and New York including the Tony Award, Olivier Award, Drama Desk Award, Evening Standard Award, London Critics Circle Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama League Award, WhatsOnStage Award, and the Southbank Sky Arts Award. He is the first Latino writer to win the Tony Award for Best Play.
In 2023, Lopez received a second Tony Award nomination for co-writing the book of the musical adaptation of the classic film Some Like It Hot, which received the most nominations of any show that season. Lopez is working on a reimagining of the iconic 1992 Whitney Houston box office hit, The Bodyguard, for Warner Bros, as well as a feature film adaptation of the novel Leading Men for Searchlight Pictures, which centers on Tennessee Williams and his longtime partner Frank Merlo. In New York, Lopez’s work has been seen off-Broadway with The Whipping Man and The Legend of Georgia McBride. Other works include Somewhere, Reverberation, The Sentinels and Zoey’s Perfect Wedding.
Ted Malawer is known for Halston (2021), a 2021 American biographical drama streaming television miniseries based on the life of designer Halston, adapted from the 1991 book Simply Halston by Steven Gaines, the series was ordered by Netflix in September 2019 and premiered on May 14, 2021. He also wrote the screenplay for Red, White & Royal Blue (2023) and Fallen (2016).
Casey McQuiston is an American author of romance novels in the new adult fiction genre. Her LGBT romance novel Red, White & Royal Blue was originally published on May 14, 2019. McQuiston first came up with the idea for what would become Red, White & Royal Blue during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. While watching a season of the HBO comedy series Veep and reading both a Hillary Clinton biography by Carl Bernstein, A Woman in Charge, and The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, they found themself intrigued by the extravagant, high-profile lifestyle of the royals and wanted to write their own take on a story featuring a royal family. Prior to publishing her first book, McQuiston waited tables, freelanced and worked extensively in magazine publishing. Visit her website