Doug Langway, Gerald McCullouch, and Stephen Guarino. | SHARPLEFT STUDIOS
The Bears are back! In the charming sequel “BearCity 2: The Proposal,” Roger (Gerald McCullouch) asks his younger boyfriend Ty (Joe Conti) to marry him. They head to Provincetown with their friends, Brent (Stephen Guarino), whose partner Fred (Brian Keane) is looking to film a documentary on bears, Michael (Gregory Gunter), and his partner Carlos (James Martinez). Of course, there are hitches, both comic and dramatic, on the way to getting hitched.
Writer/ director Doug Langway, along with Guarino and McCullouch, spoke in separate phone interviews about making “BearCity 2: The Proposal.”
Langway explained he always intended his original 2010 “BearCity” to be part of a trilogy.
“The first film was about coming out of as a bear,” he said. “It is like coming out twice. Gay marriage was the topic I wanted to address in this film. I think that ‘BearCity 2’ is one of the first to tackle this subject after it became legal in New York.”
Langway continued, “We need to take marriage seriously. It’s the business of love — what you do when you want to spend the rest of your life with someone. I wanted to make a statement that we have to be responsible with it, and not make the gay divorce rate high. Take the ceremony and the contract, which is about building a life together.”
Both Roger and Brent grapple with issues of commitment and marriage with their romantic partners. But Guarino was quick to point out that in real life he is unlike Brent.
“His humor and wry spirit are close to me, but I’m different than Brent when it comes to relationships,” he said. “I’m not needy about how much my partner constantly has to prove his love. That’s not a weakness, it’s just not a trait I share with Brent. I get claustrophobic in relationships.”
Guarino also admitted his type is not so much the hirsute Fred, but “bear cubs. I’m into porky young guys —l like college football players — short and wide. Fireplugs. I can’t do skinny. I can’t do Euro.”
McCullouch, who is more Silver Fox than Daddy Bear, explained he has more in common with Roger than he initially thought.
“It may be art imitating life,” he confessed, “but when my friends were dating younger guys, I thought, ‘What do you talk about?’”
Now the actor, who also starred in “Daddy,” an Off Broadway play where he was partnered with a younger man, is living with a younger guy.
“Its an incredible experience,” McCullouch declared. “I find the young man in my life to be one of the most mature I’ve ever dated.”
“BearCity 2” has the characters work out their relationship issues in P-town. The film, which features plenty of skin and fur, emphasizes the emotional connections between the characters over their physical attraction.
McCullouch praised Langway for how he developed the sequel.
“One thing that was important for Doug was he wanted to get gay stories out of the bedroom and into our lives,” he said. “He’s reflecting a different side of society. Marriage is going to resonate to the community. After losing generations to the AIDS crisis, we are charting our own future. How do we navigate marriage? Do we want it?”
The filmmaker shared McCullouch’s assessment.
“It was a delicate balance of sex and love set in that weeklong Mardi Gras,” Langway said. “I wanted to strive for showing bears in their natural habitat and at Provincetown’s Bear Week, It’s Bears on speed. I wanted to mix bears being out, free, and proud with Ty’s parents, who respect their son’s world and are trying to understand what he’s about.”
Langway is proud of the fact that “BearCity 2” was the first film shot in P-town in 20 years. While he captured many of the town’s landmarks, like the beaches, the dunes, and Spiritus Pizza, he shot a scene featuring the town’s famous Dick Dock elsewhere “out of respect,” he said. “The local people trusted me to be respectful, and I made a film that was unapologetic, but not disrespectful.”
McCullouch, who executive produced the film, raved about shooting in Provincetown.
“It’s such a unique, inviting beach town,” he said. “It’s a cool mix of many aspects of the LGBT community, all thrown into one little melting pot. I was here many, many years ago and didn’t experience it they way I did with ‘BearCity 2.’ I went up early, before the cast and crew, and got to know the town. I’ve fallen in love with it.”
Guarino, unfortunately, had the opposite reaction, candidly saying, “This was my eighth or ninth time in P-town. I don’t fucking like it there. It’s super gay and that’s great. It’s just too feel-good. There’s nothing dark about it. I like Fire Island, which is fun and treacherous. P-town is so genuine. I feel like a black sheep.”
His negative reaction to the town may have something to do with his experiences on the set. One particularly memorable sequence in “BearCity 2” follows the characters at an evening foam party. Because of a fire next door to the set, Langway remembered, a long day of shooting took place with the ventilation turned off.
“It looks like fun — and it is for the first hour — but then your legs start chafing and you start to get a rash” from the foam’s ammonia base, he said. “It’s exhausting, and the soap starts to burn. It’s a lot of fun if you don’t stay in too long. For us, however, we were spending 12 hours in it. It was hard, but worth it.”
McCullouch was less enthusiastic in his recollection of what he called “an experience.”
“Everyone was coughing, and their eyes were watering,” he said.
Guarino was most adamant about the unpleasantness of the foam party.
“Never again,” he said. “My entire scrotum shed its outer skin from a third-degree chemical burn!”
McCullouch laughed when he heard that, saying “That was his trick from the night before!”
Guarino recalled another tough scene in the film, when a whale-watching trip turns porno and lands his character in the water.
“That day was miserable!,” he said. “It was so fucking cold!”
Still, Guarino found plenty of humor during the filming, even in that scene.
“That guy molesting me — Pete Finland—he doesn’t remember that I fucked him about 15 years ago in LA,” he said.
In fact, Guarino’s sharp tongue is key to his hilarious turn in “BearCity 2,” his ad-libbing allowing him to steal scene after scene. Langway recalled one particular line he wished he had written, where Brent compares boyfriends to sand dunes, saying, “Sometimes you find a dirty condom in them.”
“That was a great day,” Guarino agreed, with a hearty laugh. “Because Doug was nowhere near us. We ran the set ourselves!”
BEARCITY 2: THE PROPOSAL | Directed by Doug Langway | Distributed by Sharpleft Studios |Opens Sep. 28 | Cinema Village | 22 E. 12th St. | cinemavillage.com