Easy chemistry between James Franco, Zachary Quinto in ‘I am Michael’

James Franco and Zachary Quinto in a scene from "I am Michael."

James Franco and Zachary Quinto in a scene from "I am Michael."

James Franco and Zachary Quinto in a scene from "I am Michael."

James Franco and Zachary Quinto in a scene from “I am Michael.”

PARK CITY, Utah — In “I Am Michael,” a drama based on Benoit Denizet-Lewis’s 2011 New York Times article “My Ex-Gay Friend,” James Franco plays the part of Michael Glatze, the ex-gay friend in question.

The film, which premiered Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival, is a sensitive, complicated and provocative story about a prominent gay activist who, in just a few years, denounces his homosexuality.

Michael’s transformation is not played for a surprise in the movie. Justin Kelly’s film opens with a buttoned-up Michael telling a terrified young man that homosexuality is immoral, before abruptly jumping back in time to show Michael in his activist days (and, in fact, at a raucous rave, where Franco says he was almost blinded by green glitter).

At the heart of the story is the relationship with his longtime boyfriend, Bennett (Zachary Quinto). The two have an easy, intimate and wholly lived-in chemistry when portraying Michael and Bennett as a happy couple.

But the actors, who look so comfortable together on screen weren’t even acquaintances in real life prior to the film.

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“We met through the process of getting ready to shoot the movie,” said Quinto on Sunday. “For me it was just a really clear entry to the character through his love for Michael and his unwavering commitment to trying to make their relationship work. I thought it was really well-crafted in terms of this intimacy they share and how it devolves into this maelstrom of really damaging emotional upheaval.”

It wasn’t difficult for the two to fall into the role of lovers. “James is really affable in his real life and he’s a pro,” said Quinto.

Kelly agreed. “The scene they wake up in bed together … we shot that on, I believe day two or three and it was crazy how immediate the connection was. Everyone watching the monitor was like ‘Oh, they’ve been dating for 10 years.’ It’s the craziest thing.”

“It’s four years,” said Quinto, laughing.

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