By Dennis Hensley
Sometimes even Superman gets stuck in traffic. Dean Cain, best known for his four-year stint as the Man of Steel on TV's Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, is a little late for lunch at Los Angeles's Cafe des Artistes today, which gives Timothy Olyphant, his costar in the upcoming gay buddy film The Broken Hearts Club--A Romantic Comedy, a few minutes to razz him behind his back.
"I loved asking Dean questions about Superman," reveals the 32-year-old actor, known for his edgy turns as a drug dealer in Go, a serial killer in Scream 2, and a put-upon elf in the off-Broadway adaptation of David Sedaris's SantaLand Diaries. "I asked him, 'Is the suit all one piece?' and Dean goes, 'The blue thing's all one, and then you pull on the red shorts.' And I said, 'Well, you can call them shorts if you want to, but I think we all know they aren't shorts.'"
Such good-natured ribbing between hunks is appropriate. Set to hit theaters early this fall, The Broken Hearts Club--despite its Romantic Comedy subtitle--is primarily a movie about friendship, like its hetero predecessors Diner and The Big Chill. "I'd seen lots of coming-out movies," says the film's out writer-director, Greg Berlanti, 27, explaining what inspired him. "But I hadn't seen what happens afterward, when you develop that group of friends who become like your family. I really made the film for gay men and women in their 20s who are coming out. I wanted to say, 'You're going to be OK, and your life is just as normal as anybody else's.'"
Olyphant heads the ensemble cast as Dennis, a waiter and aspiring photographer who can't decide if his friends are the best thing that's ever happened to him or the worst. Among these friends is his housemate, Cole, a part-time actor and full-time heartbreaker (played by Cain) who gets a dose of his own medicine when he has a fling with a closeted action star played by Baywatch Hawaii's Michael Bergin. Both men play on a softball team with their fellow waiters from the Jack of Broken Hearts restaurant, a West Hollywood, Calif., eatery owned by a gay father figure played by Frasier's John Mahoney.
Today, back at our real-life restaurant, a harried but handsome Cain arrives. The two actors trade a warm embrace and sit down to catch up on each other's adventures in fatherhood. (Olyphant and his wife, Alexis, welcomed a daughter less than a year ago; Cain and his ex-girlfriend, Samantha Torres, are expecting a child in June, whom they plan to raise together.) Then the talk turns to their new gay date movie, and though they both glow with pride as they discuss the project, it doesn't take long to realize that these two of Hearts also make quite a pair of jokers.
How did you come to be involved with The Broken Hearts Club?
Olyphant: [Coproducer] Micky Liddell, who also produced Go, said, "Pick a part." I said, "Dennis looks good." I had lunch with Greg, and it was done.
Cain: I became involved differently. Often you're given a bunch of scripts to read, and they sort of snuck it in there. I absolutely loved it.
What was it about the script that resonated?
Cain: I love the character I got to play, Cole. He's not really a cad. He just doesn't realize what he's doing. He has no conscience. When I read the script, I was laughing out loud. I wanted to read parts of it to my friends.
Olyphant: The fact is, you read shitty script after shitty script, and anything that's good, you just think, How can I get in there?
This is a movie about friendship. At what points in your lives have your friends really been there for you?
Olyphant: My friends were everything in college. I was feeling alienated with my parents going through a divorce. My roommates and I smoked a lot of weed together. It was very therapeutic.
Cain: When I went to Princeton, the friends I played football with became the friends I lived and died with. There were times when I felt so out of place being a kid from California in New Jersey. They always called me the California surfer boy or Mr. Athlete.
Olyphant: Oh, the pain! [Laughs] Those are tough words. Now I can see how you related to the homosexual experience.
So did you guys go barhopping in West Hollywood to do research for your parts?
Olyphant: Some of the guys did, and that's why their performances are stronger than ours [laughs]. I approach movies the same way I approached class in college. I say to someone, "Will you just take a couple notes for me and give them to me later?" I talked to Ben Weber [who plays Dennis's friend Patrick and checked out the gay bars for the film]. He told me what happens at [the West Hollywood bar] Rage."
Were you ever concerned with being too gay or not gay enough?
Cain: Yes. We had a gay meter.
Was it a literal appliance?
Olyphant: No, I wish it was. The director would yell out, "You guys are being too gay right now!"
What'd you do to get "too gay," a number from Dreamgirls?
Olyphant: Exactly [laughs]. You know, I don't think I ever got, "You're not being gay enough."
Timothy, you've been married for nine years, since before you started acting in Hollywood. Do you wonder what that journey would have been like if you were single?
Olyphant: You know what? I'm glad I don't have to go down that road. Movies are summer camp. You fall head over heels in love with beautiful strangers, and then six months later you only vaguely remember their names.
Were there any gay references in the script you had to ask about?
Cain: I didn't know what "bottom boy" meant [laughs]. One of the characters calls me a bottom boy, and I get offended. They had quite a lot of fun explaining it to me. They said, "You are ye who receive." I said, "OK."
Did you keep any of the clothes you wore?
Olyphant: Yeah. My wife was like, "Oh, honey, you look good in that. Keep that."
They weren't too shiny and stretchy, as I recall.
Olyphant: Just remove one or two things, and it becomes a heterosexual outfit. If I take the necklace off and don't tuck the shirt in, I'm straight.
Cain: [Laughs] Gay is in the details.
There's a baseball scene where Cole flirts with the opposing team's catcher while he's up at bat. It's classic romantic comedy banter. Did you feel like Meg Ryan?
Cain: No. But when I read that scene, I was like, "I'm doing this movie."
Olyphant: Now you're going to be typecast as the Meg Ryan type.
Speaking of typecasting, Cole struggles with always being cast as the hunky guy. Is that something you can relate to, Dean?
Cain: With Tim around, I hesitate to answer [laughs].
Olyphant: Oh, the burden of being Dean Cain. Every day it's "God, you're so good-looking!" I can't take it anymore!!
Let's rephrase the question. Dean, are there times when you don't get a fair shake because people think of you as Superman?
Cain: That happens all the time, but it has nothing to do with the public. It's the studio people. That's something I've been working to change in the last three years. The studio didn't even want me for this film.
Olyphant: Ninety percent of the [creative] people out there have no imagination. In the beginning of my career, it was, "Tim can't be the killer, he's not edgy." After I played the killer in Scream 2, it was "Tim can't do this romance; he's too edgy."
Cain: Now you know what's going to happen...
Cain and Olyphant: "He's too gay!"
Who is the first gay person you remember meeting?
Cain: I believe my fifth and sixth grade teacher was gay. Great teacher.
Olyphant: A guy in high school has a crush on me. He'd call my house, and at first I was polite. But he kept calling, and after a while I was just rude like I'd have been to anybody.
Olyphant: I just handled all the stalkers the same [laughs].
What did the people in your life think of you being in a gay movie?
Cain: Because I played a gay man before in the film Best Men, my representatives were concerned at first.
Olyphant: I think it's an industry rule that you can play a gay character once and a serial killer a dozen times.
Cain: They didn't want me to be perceived as the guy who plays gay characters all the time any more than they want me to be perceived as Superman. Literally, though, you look for characters you want to play, and I loved Cole. My mother and father were not wide open to it, to be quite honest.
Your families worried?
Cain: My mom was concerned, but after she saw the film at Sundance, she absolutely loved it.
Olyphant: My younger brother thought it was the best movie done. The running joke is, this is probably the nicest I've looked in a movie. To my mom, that means everything.
Because of your name, did kids ever tease you and call you "Elephant"?
Olyphant: Yeah, but we embraced it. We had elephant things around the house. We had a little sign that said THE OLYPHANTS that looked like a bunch of elephants holding their tails.
Cain: I was called Deanie Weenie.
Since you brought it up, what's the most unheroic thing you ever did in the Superman costume?
Cain: Taking a leak was always weird. There's a little trap door built in.
Did you get a lot of gay fan mail when you were Superman?
Cain: Oh, yeah. The gay fan mail was usually the sweetest and nicest.
Timothy, you got to do more man-to-man kissing than Dean did in the film. Did you do anything special to prepare for those scenes?
Olyphant: [Laughs] Here's the problem with the way I look at scripts: I don't bother reading any of the subtext. I just read my dialogue. We're a week into the film and they're like, "Tomorrow you got that big kissing scene." And I'm like, "O-o-oh-kay. What?"
You're kidding right?
Olyphant: No, this is true. I am guilty at times of not really reading the script. I didn't know I was going to have to kiss the J. Crew guy until I showed up that day.
Have you ever had your heart broken?
Cain: Any time I get out of a relationship. I got devastated a couple years ago.
How did you deal with it?
Cain: I tend to work out.
Olyphant: Yeah, Dean's so depressed, but look at those abs!
The film features several tear-jerking Carpenters songs. Do you have a Carpenters song in your past? Or is that just way too gay?
Cain: I think it's way, way, way too gay for me, certainly [laughs].
OK, then I won't even bring up Olivia Newton-John.
Cain: No, I love Olivia, especially in Grease.
Olyphant: I always wanted the slutty Olivia in the black outfit.
What do you think the climate is now in Hollywood for gay actors?
Olyphant: Come out, work less. I don't think it really affects indie film and good movies and smart directors. But you're kidding yourself if you think some studio exec--who's spent $40 million on a film he's selling to middle America--is going to be unconcerned if America knows his lead actor's gay. He's going to wonder whether the audience will buy that. That's just the sad truth. Is Anne Heche working more or less since she came out? And she's a lesbian, and America loves lesbians!
You just worked with Anne Heche in a film called Auggie Rose. How was that?
Olyphant: I love that girl. I gave her a ride home the first day we met, and I got to meet Ellen, out in front of the house. They're great.
Do you have gay actor friends who are in the closet?
Olyphant: Yeah. But there are different types of careers within Hollywood. There are some very successful people who if they came out, I don't think it would affect their careers--but they don't come out. I feel like they should. But it's none of my business.
What do you hope people will get from the movie:
Olyphant: How talented I am [laughs].
Cain: I hope this film crosses over and that everybody sees it for what it is, a story about friendship. This is the film I'm most proud of, of anything I've done. When we got a standing ovation at Sundance and Greg Berlanti was up there trying not to cry, I felt so good, knowing I had a hand in making this happen.