Former gay porn star Johnny Hazzard co-stars in gay family drama
Wade Gasque's Tiger Orange attracted a good deal of attention on the film festival circuit when it was revealed that co-star Frankie Valenti was in actuality former gay porn star Johnny Hazzard. Some wondered if Valenti would cut the muster in a dramatic role.
Ultimately the "stunt casting" buzz will die down, and Valenti will have to prove his acting chops if the film is to succeed.
He indeed proves himself up to the challenge. Speaking to SFGN via phone, Valenti said that he has not studied acting. Yet he delivers a sensitive and nuanced performance as Todd, a young gay man in search of himself.
"It wasn't difficult," Valenti said. "There were parts of it that were parallel to my own life."
The actor is well aware of the fact that his past as Johnny Hazzard will be one of the film's main points of interest to gay viewers, some of whom might not take him seriously as an actor.
"They'll be intrigued," he said. "They might expect a train wreck. There has not been a lot of luck with people in my field, so they might not have an open mind."
For himself Valenti has no regrets. "I'm very grateful to porn," he said. "If someone brought me back in time I'd do it all over again."
He also addressed the recent wave of suicides among former gay porn stars, acknowledging that many in the industry never prepared themselves for life after porn.
"We all know it stops," he said. "Many are left asking what do I do now? They have no skills, no goals and no self-esteem. I had goals, a good family and support in and out of the industry."
Valenti currently works as a tour guide and as an artist, dividing his time between Provincetown and Los Angeles, with stops in Florida along the way. He admits that it’s been awhile since he's had a decent date, which his travel schedule might be contributing to.
"I as a person am solitary" he said. "I enjoy being by myself. The sum of my parts do not add up to a relationship."
And yet he expressed an earnest hope that Mr. Right will come along.
In Tiger Orange, Valenti co-stars with Mark Strano, who co-wrote the screenplay with Gasque. They play gay brothers Chet (Strano) and Todd (Valenti). Todd, though not effeminate, is flamboyantly gay — he's a drifter who doesn't know what to do with his life.
After the death of his father, who raised his sons as a single dad, Todd returns home to the semi-closeted, semi-conservative Chet, who now runs the family hardware store in small town Central California.
Old hostilities boil to the surface. Chet resents Todd for not being there during Dad's illness — he's embarrassed by the manner in which Todd flaunts himself. Todd is jealous of Chet's stability. A character driven story, Tiger Orange is a lovely tale of family and redemption. Strano and Valenti play off each other beautifully.
"It's not a typical gay story," Valenti said. "There's something in it for everyone to enjoy. You don't have to be gay to enjoy it."
And what does the future hold for the talented actor? Will he act again?
"I'm confident that things will unfold as they are meant to," said Valenti.
Tiger Orange is now on DVD.