|THE CRYING GAME|
THE CRYING GAME'S' SECRET WEAPON
BEST-SUPPORTING ACTOR NOMINEE *JAYE* *DAVIDSON* OPENS UP
San Francisco Chronicle (SF) - SUNDAY, March 21, 1993
By: JEFF GILES
THE Crying Game'' is about many things, but mostly it's about an Irish
Republican Army man who falls for a woman who is not a woman. Stephen Rea is
that man, and *Jaye* *Davidson* is that woman. Or, rather, Davidson is not
that woman. He plays a transvestite named Dil, who spends his/her days
cutting hair and his/her nights in a bar called the Metro, pining over
margaritas and lip-syncing to the odd pop tune. Rea plays a freedom fighter
named Fergus, who abandons the cause and his IRA lover, played by Miranda
Richardson. Fergus and Dil meet up in London. Fergus doesn't know that his
exotic little flower is a man -- and neither does the audience -- until the
truth is staring him in the face.
When ``The Crying Game'' was released, the film's distributor, Miramax,
asked movie reviewers to keep Davidson's gender a secret, and they did. The
movie, which was made for less than $5 million, became a hot ticket, as well
as the subject of a bizarre publicity melee in which journalists vied to see
who could write the longest article without actually saying anything.
Director Neil Jordan, Rea and Richardson all walked off with awards.
Davidson, however, was largely passed over because some critics nominated
him as an actor, others nominated him as an actress, and still others didn't
know what to think.
Then, in February, Oscar weighed in. ``The Crying Game'' had snagged six
Academy Award nominations, including one with Davidson's name on it: best
Davidson came from out of nowhere and, as you'll see, would not mind going
back. (Rumor has it, though, he's been considering an offer from Claude
Chabrol, who directed ``Madame Bovary.'') Jordan cast the 25-year-old
Londoner after auditioning a slew of unknowns, many of whom were
transvestites and did campy, but not terribly feminine, variations on the
Bette Midler-Zsa Zsa Gabor theme.
``I knew Jaye could sail through it if he was just to be beautiful and
aloof,'' Jordan says. ``But I worried about whether he could allow himself
to move you as an audience. Then we did the scene where he gets his hair cut
for the first time, and he suddenly began to act with this pain in his
voice. It was extraordinary.''
Rea says: ``If Jaye hadn't been a completely convincing woman, my character
would have looked stupid. Everyone would have said, `That's one sick Paddy.'''
There are people who have seen ``The Crying Game'' and yet persist in
thinking that Davidson is a woman and that the anatomy in question is some
sort of special effect. Davidson's answer for them: ``How mad! I mean, as
In December, Davidson came to America to shoot a Gap ad with Annie Leibovitz
and granted two interviews, one as a woman and one as a man. The former
interview was published in the New York Times, and though it did not make a
single reference to Davidson's gender, it was accompanied by a photograph of
the actor in a necklace and hoop earrings, his springy black hair swept up
in a bun.
This is the latter interview, conducted in a clangorous Mexican restaurant
in mid-Manhattan in the middle of rainstorm. Davidson wore a bulky gray
sweater, black jeans and Harley boots. He struck one as preternaturally
poised, utterly sure of who and what he was.
Q: The idea of being in a movie must have been terrifying.
A: It was repellent. In fact, I nearly backed out of it twice. When I first
went out for the part, I didn't think in a million years I would get it. I
just thought: ``Yeah, I'll go have a look at this, why not?''
And when I got it, I just laughed my head off. It wasn't joyous laughter. It
was a nervous reaction. People close to me said, ``Don't do this film -- you
won't be able to handle what happens afterward.'' So I had it written in my
contract that I didn't have to do any publicity whatsoever.
Q: How were you discovered?
A: Do you know who Derek Jarman is? I was at the wrap party for ``Edward
II,'' and I was very drunk. Someone said, ``Oh, are you an actor?'' I said
no. They said, ``Would you like to go out for a film?'' And I said no and
staggered off drunk. I was so drunk that I didn't remember it happening. But
the person I was with gave them my number, and then I got a phone call.
Q: Had you done any acting?
A: I'd been Spear Carrier on the Right -- yeah. We've all done school plays
when we're very young.
Q: What was your first impression of the script?
A: I thought: ``This isn't going to work. We're not going to get away with
this film.'' I thought everyone would hate the subject -- the IRA, the
racism, the relationships. I thought people would be very turned off by it.
Then I heard who else was in it. I just thought, ``My God, I can't be in a
film with these people -- they're all actors!''
Q: In the film you have a relationship with Stephen Rea. Were you
comfortable with him?
A: I would imagine that Stephen would have been more uncomfortable with me
than I would have been with him. See, I'm from another world from Stephen's
life. Stephen is an actor -- a Belfast actor, married with children. And he
ends up working with someone like me. I felt sorry for Stephen. I can't
speak for him, of course, but I just thought, ``This poor man has to kiss
Q: For ``The Crying Game'' to work, the audience has to believe that you're
a woman. What made the casting director think you could pass for one? A: I
haven't got a clue.
Q: Do you enjoy wearing dresses?
A: Do I enjoy wearing dresses? I never, ever did drag. Never.
Q: Were you shocked when they asked you to do drag?
A: No. I'm unshockable, fortunately -- or unfortunately. I mean, when I went
up for the part, I knew they wouldn't want me to play a gunslinging truck
Q: How did you know you could pass for a woman?
A: I've been mistaken for a woman in the street, so I thought, ``Yes, I
could get away with this.''
Q: Are you surprised that audiences believe Dil is a woman?
A: Yeah. Constantly. I don't have a brilliant body at all. I've got very
broad shoulders. I've got very big feet. I've also got a very muscular neck.
But I know people take me for a woman. It happens all the time.
Q: It's hard to believe that you've never done drag.
A: Before I did the film, I did have one night out in drag. I wore a white,
silk-crepe, baby-doll dress. I had my hair up, and I had lilies in my hair.
It was a fierce look and all, but it was too much hard work.
Q: Was it like Halloween or something?
A: No, it was kinky in London. It was during a Trinidadian carnival. Three
of us got up in drag, and it was gorgeous. Just hysterical.
Q: How did people react to you?
A: They just could not believe that I was a man. They kept poking me to see
if I had tits. It was mad. It was a good night.
Q: Where were you born?
A: I was born in California. I'm an American citizen, but I grew up in
England. My mother's a businesswoman. My father's dead. My mother's white.
Q: Are you close to your mother?
A: We've always had a fabulous relationship. We're very, very similar. We've
both got a great sense of self-worth. And when we find something that we
want to do, we do it hammer-on. My mother's very correct and very beautiful.
She's to be admired. She brought three children up and worked full time and
ran a house -- all on her own.
Q: Where did you go after high school?
A: I started working for Walt Disney in their office in London. It was like
earning pocket money. It was mad. You know how you have people who are
inside the costumes? I was like that. Pluto. It was hysterical.
Q: What did you want out of life then?
A: I wanted to work in the arts. My dream come true would be to be an
architectural historian and work with the royal palaces and all the fabulous
art collections. But I'm not committed enough. I'm too trashy. I like to go
out and get drunk.
Q: What were you doing before you got the ``Crying Game'' role?
A: I was a fashion assistant.
Q: So why do a movie?
A: You have to want the money. I earned almost half my yearly salary in
Q: Are you any better off financially than when you started the movie?
A: No, I'm in hideous amounts of debt. I am the original prodigal. I have to
have the best of everything, and yet I am incredibly poor. I'm on the dole,
and they give me 43 pounds a week.
Q: Do you want to spend an entire lifetime as a fashion assistant?
A: Yes. I can see myself doing that job for a lifetime. I enjoy doing it.
I'm creative in my own life. I'm one of those dreadful people who probably
should have been born at the end of the 19th century and been in cafe
society and just sat there chatting about absolute bollocks. That would have
suited me fine.
Q: Your agent's phone must be ringing now.
A: I don't have an agent, because I don't want anyone to offer me another
part. I don't want to be tempted out into crap films just for the money.
And, of course, I'm tempted by money. I mean, we all want loads of money,
Q: Would you like ``The Crying Game'' even if you weren't in it?
A: Yeah, I would, actually. I would like the subject matter, which hasn't
been explored. The movie is about how you just never know. You never know
what you will be attracted to -- or who you will love -- till it happens to
you. I've only been in love once in my whole life, and I never thought I'd
fall in love at all.
Q: Why not?
A: I thought I was a bit hard-boiled. I thought, ``Who would be stupid
enough to get involved with tricky Jaye?''
I'm not really a shy person, but no one wants to be rejected, do they? Also,
my looks are not attractive to the gay community. To be homosexual is to
like the ideal of the sex. Homosexual men love very masculine men. And I'm
not a very masculine person. I have long hair, which isn't very popular with
gay men. My behavior is often appalling. And I have a terrible reputation in
London for being one of the unapproachables.
Q: In the movie, Rea has no idea that your character is a man until he's
confronted with irrefutable evidence. Is it possible to have a relationship
with someone and not know?
A: Apparently so. Two of the people who were up for the part were in those
relationships. I would never let anything go that far. Not in a million
years. When I met my last lover, I said, ``You know I'm a man, don't you?''
And he said, ``Yeah, I do.'' And I said, ``Well, all right then.''
Q: In the last few years, there's been some controversy about the way gays
are portrayed in movies. Was that a concern of yours?
A: Some people are so precious -- all this hoo-ha about bad role models and
positive images! Of course gay people are murderers, bigamists, drug addicts
and nasty people -- just as much as heterosexual people are all of these
What it all boils down to is, we are all people, and we all have the same
human desires. It just happens that some desires go this way and some
desires go that way. It's sad when people are oppressed. But it's a question
of rising above it. Personally, mentally and, if you have to, physically.
Q: Have you?
A: I have been involved in physical violence. Absolutely. I am an incredibly
strong person and an incredibly fast person. And once I do start bashing you
about, you will not get up off the floor. It's as simple as that.
Q: Won't it be hard to go back to being a fashion assistant?
A: No. All that was normal. This is bizarre. This is another world.
I shall look back on all this. And everything will go into the box that I
keep under my bed. Annie Leibovitz gave me her book, and she signed it: ``To
Jaye, blah-blah-blah.'' These are all wonderful memories.''
Q: What's most important in your life?
A: The most important thing in my life is to live my life and to enjoy it --
to do what I think is right and what I think is good.
Q: What about leaving something behind?
A: Well, I've left this film behind, haven't I? There'll always be a copy of
this film somewhere. I don't want to make an impression on the world. That's
not important to me at all. The people I know and love can say, ``Oh, do you
remember Jaye, blah-blah-blah?'' And someone else can say, ``Oh, yeah,
great, blah-blah-blah.'' And that's more than enough for me.
Copyright 1993 The San Francisco Chronicle
WARNING: SECRETS REVEALED HERE
San Francisco Chronicle (SF) - MONDAY, February 22, 1993
By: JON CARROLL
MEMO: JON CARROLL
TEXT: *JAYE* *DAVIDSON* is a guy, OK? She's a transvestite. Also, Tony
Perkins lives alone in that house on the hill in "Psycho"; he dresses up
like his mother and kills people. Have I lost my license to practice
The secret about Davidson is pretty much out -- she was nominated for an
Oscar as best supporting actor. How many more clues do people need?
And yet everyone is still being coy. The new ads for "The Crying Game"
mention that it was nominated for six Oscars but don't mention Davidson by
either name or category. Show biz reporters around the nation have been
On ABC news, Peter Jennings practically wiggled at the naughtiness of it
all. I didn't tape it, but he said something like, "Like millions of
Americans, I haven't seen 'The Crying Game' yet, so not even I know that
you-know-who was nominated in one of the acting categories."
What? That'll have the folks in Boise whacking their television sets.
On that same ABC newscast, a reporter said, "The middle class is losing
patience." He was standing in the snow in Rockford, Ill., where the middle
class had apparently gone to visit its mother. Curiously, over at NBC the
middle class was sighted in Seattle, where it was similarly restless.
Tomorrow in this space, I'm going to interview the lower class. If you think
the middle class is impatient, just wait.
I SUPPOSE that's part of my problem with this whole weird Jaye Davidson tap
dance. Here are the nation's media unwilling to give Bill Clinton a week to
explain the most sweeping proposed changes in government since FDR, but
they're willing to lie down and roll over for a movie PR campaign so that
all of America will have a chance to gasp at a penis.
I like a good penis gasp as much as the next man, but a little social
justice would be even better. I have no idea whether Clinton's numbers add
up yet; I have no idea whether this elaborate package (with a health care
bundle to follow) has a prayer of working, but I would like to see
discussion of the actual thing itself instead of dreary pontifications about
how this or that class of human reacted to the political fireworks.
But the media seem to believe that a grace period would be capitulation of
some sort -- except when it comes to "The Crying Game." With Jaye Davidson,
the media are keeping the secrets that aren't even secrets anymore. It was
cute for two weeks; now it has turned stale and stupid.
THERE'S ANOTHER problem, too -- the hype about the Big Secret distorts the
nature of "The Crying Game," which is a very good movie with or without its
revelation. It's about the persistence of love and hope; its theme (as my
friend Patrizia noted) could easily be that Shakespeare line from Sonnet
116, "Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds."
But some people, when they read that a movie has a Great Big Unguessable
Secret, try to guess the secret. It becomes a game. And how many Big Secrets
are there in the narrative form?
Someone you think is dead is really alive. Someone you think is the hero is
really the villain. Someone you think is a man is really a woman. Vice versa
all of those, and that's six secrets. And while you're sitting there pawing
through the possibilities, the movie goes on, delicate and fresh and
It's a disservice, really; clever marketing, but hurtful. God help Neil
Jordan when his next movie only features small secrets of the heart.
Copyright 1993 The San Francisco Chronicle
NOMINEE FOR OSCAR IS SHOCKED, JOBLESS
San Francisco Chronicle (SF) - THURSDAY, February 18, 1993
By: Janet Maslin, New York Times
TEXT: New York - *Jaye* *Davidson* of "The Crying Game," a late sleeper,
awoke at 5 p.m. London time yesterday and thus learned of the Academy Award
nominations from an answering machine. "You could've said to me yesterday
that I would wake up and be part of the royal family, and I would have been
less surprised," said this year's most attention-getting nominee for a
"The Oscars are Joan Crawford, Jack Nicholson, Elizabeth Taylor; the Oscars
aren't me. In England, people dismiss the idea of getting nominated for an
Oscar out of hand because it's something you never expect." Hired for the
film's pivotal role with no previous acting experience, Davidson had a
temporary job in a shop two months ago, then landed some runway modeling
assignments and is now out of work despite contacts in both the fashion and
publicity businesses. "London is very depressed at the moment, so there's
not much work around whether you've got contacts or not."
London may be depressed, but yesterday many of the principals of "The Crying
Game" celebrated at Groucho's, a club there, and sounded anything but gloomy
when reached by telephone. "This really does seem like something out of a
'50s movie, it's so out of my own life," said Jaye. "I really can't express
how amazed I am. And I am not an unsophisticated person."
Also there is no immediate answer to a question that, for this Oscar
nominee, has more than the usual resonance: What might Jaye Davidson wear on
Oscar night? "Whatever it is, it will be elegant," said the nominee. "To be
elegant, after all, is to be very subtle. I cannot be obvious."
Copyright 1993 The San Francisco Chronicle