How Fire Island's Joel Kim Booster Made Pride and Prejudice a Queer Rom-Com

Joel Kim Booster put his writing skills to the test with Fire Island, an updated—and queer—version of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

By Cydney Contreras Jun 06, 2022 8:00 PMTags
Watch: Fire Island Cast Talks Pride & Prejudice Inspiration (EXCLUSIVE)

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

It sounds impossible, but somehow, Joel Kim Booster turned Pride & Prejudice into a modern queer love story set in Fire Island.

Joel makes the writing process sound easy, explaining to E! News exclusively that he was struck with inspiration when he visited the summer spot and observed the dynamics between members of the gay community. As he watched people interact, he remembered the scene in which Elizabeth Bennet is taken for a turn about the room and put in her place by Caroline Bingley.

"Moments like that are really what made me want to write this movie because it is in that scene and in the book, Caroline is communicating so effectively how little she thinks of Elizabeth Bennet and sort of being territorial," Joel explained, "but the sheen, the sort of words she's using are polite."

He added, "That is sort of how gay men communicate with each other now."

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Of course, there is so much more to the gay community, which is highlighted in the new film.

At the heart of the film, directed by Andrew Ahn, is Noah's chosen family: Bowen Yang plays his best friend Howie, the Jane Bennet of the group; Lydia Bennet takes form in Luke, played by Matt Rogers; Tomas Matos plays Keegan, a Kitty-like character; and Torian Miller is Max, a.k.a. Mary, the intellect of the family. At the head of the clan is Margaret Cho's unashamed Erin, who doubles as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, serving up wisdom and embarrassment at all the right moments.

Photo by Jeong Park/Searchlight

As for the love interests, there's Conrad Ricamora, who plays the dashing Will, a stand-in for the mysterious and smug Mr. Darcy, while James Scully plays Charlie, the charmingly aloof Charles Bingley.

It's hard not to notice the similarities between the literary characters and Joel's versions, as well as the scenes which replicate key moments from the 2005 adaptation, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen. In one scene, rain is pouring down on Noah and Will as they fight during a walk from one party to another. There's even a Netherfield Ball of sorts, but Jane Austen characters would never go out in their underwear.

And yes, there's even a scene that references the heart-fluttering interaction between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth in the 2005 film, you know, the one where he touches her hand. "That's why I wrote the scene where we dance and we get pushed into each other and then there is like a hand on the shoulder moment," Joel said. "For Andrew and I, that was that moment."

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There are other plot points that are integral to Pride and Prejudice, like the shocking marriage between Lydia and Mr. Wickham. Again, it seems difficult to imagine how this story could be translated to modern times, and yet Joel did it, a feat that "impressed" Matt, who plays Luke and also spoke to E! News.

In Fire Island's version of the film, Wickham is turned into Dex, a wickedly handsome man who claims that Will looks down on him because he's on OnlyFans. But the group, specifically Luke, learns that Will dislikes Dex because he posts sex tapes of himself and other men without the person's consent.

Photo by Jeong Park/Searchlight

While Luke isn't married off to Dex, Matt said his character's dilemma is similar to Lydia's because "what she's losing is her future and what he's afraid of losing is his future."

Matt noted that Luke is more fortunate than Lydia, saying, "In Pride and Prejudice, Lydia is married to Wickham forever. I mean, that's her life. And I actually kind of appreciated that in this version of the story, Fire Island, Luke does get some dignity."

Photo by Jeong Park/Searchlight

These sometimes stressful scenes are divided by moments of pure joy, with Bowen singing Britney Spears' "Sometimes" during a talent show and Max realizing his true beauty when he's high. They're those scenes that make Fire Island a romantic-comedy worthy of the genre, which Joel was obsessed with in his youth. He said, "I worshipped at the altar of Nora Ephron growing up and so many of these moments are really ripped from the way I've processed rom-coms and Sex and the City and all of it."

When asked how he feels to have written a movie that honors such titles, Joel said, "Insane." 

Fire Island is streaming now on Hulu.