Based on executive producer Michael Ausiello's best-selling memoir, Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies, the romantic drama, Spoiler Alert, stars Jim Parsons as Ausiello, an entertainment writer who has a rom-com-worthy meet-cute with photographer Kit Cowan, portrayed in the film by Ben Aldridge. Like the memoir, the heartbreaking holiday movie chronicles the couple's love story from their first fated moment, to their last, when Kit is diagnosed with terminal cancer. The movie also stars two-time Academy Award-winner Sally Field and Bill Irwin.
Before the movie's theatrical release, Collider's Steve Weintraub sat down with Spoiler Alert's Parsons and Aldridge. During their interview, the duo discussed what drew them to the script, and what it was like portraying two real-life people with one of them, Ausiello, being on set during filming. They also share how production began with some of Spoiler Alert's most emotional scenes, calling it a "baptism of fire," what they did in order to prepare for these roles, and what it's like filming a silent club sequence during a pandemic. You can watch the interview in the video above, or read the full transcript below.
COLLIDER: Your speed dating continues with me. I'm going to start with congratulations.
BEN ALDRIDGE: Love that.
You guys did great. I like throwing a curveball before I get started into the movie. For both of you, if someone has actually never seen anything you've done before, what is the first thing you'd like them watching, and why?
ALDRIDGE: I don't think that person exists for me. I mean, I'm joking.
JIM PARSONS: I'm going to go with this, and the reason why is because it's the most current thing I've done and I want to continue growing. You understand what I'm saying? This is what I'm doing right now, or just did right now, so that's as close to who I am as I can show you on film right now.
ALDRIDGE: Yeah, I'd like to steal that answer.
PARSONS: You can if you want.
ALDRIDGE: But just to switch it up, I'm going to go opposite end of that and say the first thing I ever did, which was play Fizzy in Bugsy Malone on stage. And I don't know that I've topped it.
Thank you for that. One of the things that I love about this film is that it doesn't try to Hollywoodize the story. It's a real, honest depiction of two people and their relationships, and the ups and downs.
PARSONS: Yeah, I think for both of us, that was a major reason this was so intriguing to do and a reason to want to be a part of it, was that it did depict not just a gay relationship, but a relationship in general through, perhaps more highs and lows than one is expecting to see in a film, but one should for sure expect in real life. And that was very satisfying to get to play that many different temperatures and variations of what they were going through.
ALDRIDGE: Yeah, [director] Michael Showalter said to me quite early on, he said – and it was an interesting question – he was like, "What do you want to do with this part? What do you want to achieve with it?"
And my answer was that I just wanted to be believed. And I think that goes for the movie as well, that I just want the movie to be believable. And in that way, I think you have to offer the full spectrum of something, and I think it shows the full spectrum of a relationship and not just the rose-tinted version of it or not just the tragic version of it. I think that's something that we are both really proud of and I hope that's playing really well in the film, is that it really is what it is to be in a relationship for a long time and the journey that you go on with that.
Michael [Ausiello] was on set a lot, I think every day. What was it like actually having him there watching? Because as a performer, I would like to think you want to create some distance to make the character your own. But these are real people. Can you talk about that dynamic?
PARSONS: Michael Ausiello was actually pretty vocal in his stating that he understood that what we were doing was not going to mimic his real life, or mirror it completely, and that this was its own creature. He said that many different times and in many different ways. Which is not to say that all of the pressure is taken away by knowing that the source of the source material is there the whole time, but most of it is.
This has come up a couple of times, but we both drew a lot of strength, I think, and power from just being able to see him there and know that he was there, really centering our performances and just the journey we were going on. There was the man who had lived it, right there.
I always find it funny watching club scenes in movies because I know everyone in those scenes has to be super quiet. There's no music actually playing. You're trying to dance and you're trying to make it believable but it's as fake as it can be. Can you talk about filming those, a scene like that?
ALDRIDGE: Oh, they are very strange scenes to film, and I think they're also scenes that you do watch a lot of the time and you're aware of that, or you're aware of the background artists a lot. And I found this was fun to do, but it was funny to do as well.
PARSONS: Yes, yeah.
ALDRIDGE: Because, yeah, there is no music and you're bopping to nothing. Bopping. I said the word bopping.
PARSONS: Bopping, we were bopping.
I'll tell you this, too. We also shot this, it was about a year ago almost to the day that we probably shot that scene right now. And so we were, a year ago, in COVID. So it was especially odd to be mimicking a hot and sweaty, gay dance club type vibe in that era. It felt extra dirty.
ALDRIDGE: It was. It was extra dirty.
For both of you, when I'm assuming when you were looking at the script and you saw the schedule, there must have been a day or two circled on the calendar that you're like, "These are going to be really tough days and these are the days where I really..." You know what mean? What was the day or two that you had circled on the calendar that you're not nervous about, but were really thinking about?
PARSONS: The first day we worked together?
ALDRIDGE: Yeah. Our first-ever day was we shot all of the oncology appointments.
PARSONS: So the diagnosis and the trips back to the doctor to get about the radiation.
ALDRIDGE: Finding out that it was terminal.
ALDRIDGE: So we couldn't have been-
PARSONS: We had never acted together before, literally.
ALDRIDGE: So day one was circled. And I think that meant the rest of it, I didn't circle any of the rest of them because that was like we stopped, it was a baptism of fire.
ALDRIDGE: We dove right into the deep end, day one, and it just continued from there. It all felt momentous and it all felt special. Them falling in love felt equally as important and important to get right. So it just set the tone where we carried on.
When you are looking at a script and you're getting ready to shoot, do you like preparing everything before the shoot begins, as an actor? Or are you preparing certain things? How does it actually work before you step on set for each of you?
ALDRIDGE: I think what I wanted to do was get to know Kit [Cowan], and get to know my version of Kit, and get to know the source material as well as I could in the time that I had, and to feel like I had a really good handle on them, and it, and my instinct for it.
And then, I think in terms of preparing stuff, yes, learning the lines, but never have I made... This maybe is a good or a bad thing? Never have I made less decisions about how I would play something out. And I loved that, that I came to a scene and I was never sure what Jim was going to do. I was never fully sure of what I was going to do. And it was just trusting, well, just very actory thing to say, but there was just this trust between us to find our own way. And also, all you want to ever achieve as an actor is to react in the moment. When you're in the moment is when it's at its best, I think. And I feel like I tried to allow myself to do that more than ever before.
PARSONS: Yeah, I think every project is obviously unique and specific in its own ways, and this one very much was of the tone Ben just said. I feel like the biggest amount of work I did, I obviously read the book several times and referenced it a lot for myself. And in that tone, just tracking in little points of the way, Michael's journey to meeting Kit, falling in love with Kit, meeting Kit's parents, a cancer diagnosis, re-living the trauma of his mother. Those were the highlights, but everything else really, the meat was put on those bones every day when we went in there.
ALDRIDGE: Yeah. And also, we never stopped discussing them as well as people.
ALDRIDGE: I think that was never ending between us and Michael Showalter.
PARSONS: And with Showalter, Ausiello, yeah.
ALDRIDGE: Even weekends, we would have Zooms to still talk about the upcoming scenes.
PARSONS: What was upcoming that week. Yeah.
PARSONS: That was really exciting, actually. I mean, it was a very collaborative process in that way and very gratifying.
ALDRIDGE: Yeah, good times.
Spoiler Alert is now playing in theaters.