In a recent interview with the Advocate’s Brandon Voss painstakingly beautiful Ryan Phillippe touches on various “gay” moments in his career, from his first acting role on One Life to Live, his altercation with Jay Leno. and Mark Christopher’s “54:”
On “54”, Ryan says the “secret” uncut version does exists: “I don’t know how big of an appetite there is for it, but I would certainly support a DVD release of that version. Breckin [Meyer] and I were a bit sad that nobody got to see us kiss.”
And that version does indeed exist which played at a secret screening at “Outfest” in 2008 and has rarely been seen since. In the Director’s Cut As shown for Outfest, “54” is just as writer-director Mark Christopher intended: Shane, an eager, naive young man (Ryan Phillippe) from New Jersey, gets a job as a bartender at Studio 54. There he falls in love with both his best friend, Greg (Breckin Meyer), and Greg’s wife, Anita (Salma Hayek), as the three of them struggle to survive the hedonistic, oppotunistic club scene that nearly eats them alive.
In the 45 minutes of new (original, that is) footage assembled by Mark Christopher — using largely uncorrected, rough audio and video that was expertly edited — we see Shane sleep with dozens of men and women, for career advancement or simply pleasure. Phillippe is in nearly every scene, and his performance is strong, sympathetic and seductive. It’s also frequently nude, or barely dressed, and the camera clings to what one character calls his “body by David and face by Botticelli.” And far from being merely a “love triangle,” the slow, simmering sexual attraction among Phillippe, Meyer and Hayek — especially an amazingly intense, evocative kiss between the two men towards the end of the film — is equally as important as the queer family they make for themselves.
If “54” had been released originally released as screened at Outfest (even with some concessions made for an R rating), it would absolutely have been the New York counterpart to Boogie Nights. It also would have been canonized as one of the best queer films of the ’90s, and a rare one that would have stood the test of time, thanks to its pitch-perfect period details.