How ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’ Reimagined a BookTok Sensation

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On a summer night, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London became the backdrop for a romantic scene between two men. Actors Taylor Zakhar Perez and Nicholas Galitzine slow-danced among sculptures in the museum until dawn, while the sound of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Perfume Genius filled the air. This scripted moment was part of the filming for the movie adaptation of Casey McQuiston’s novel, “Red, White & Royal Blue.” The film, which follows the romance between the bisexual son of the first female U.S. president and the gay younger brother of the heir to the British throne, has gained a devoted following on BookTok, the corner of TikTok dedicated to book lovers.

“Red, White & Royal Blue” has spent over 20 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and has garnered over 500 million views on BookTok. Fans have been captivated by the escapist love story, with many expressing how it has resonated with them on a personal level. Jacob Demlow, who frequently posts about the book on his “A Very Queer Book Club” account, described how it was earth-shattering to see a queer love story portrayed through familiar romantic tropes. The film adaptation, which premieres on Prime Video, aims to recreate the excitement and adoration of the book on the screen.

Director Matthew López, known for his Tony-winning play “The Inheritance,” took on the directorial debut of “Red, White & Royal Blue” after a discussion with the producers. Both López and Zakhar Perez, who plays the character Alex, found the biracial identity of Alex to be personally meaningful. López, who has a Puerto Rican father and Polish Russian mother, and Zakhar Perez, who is of Mexican, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean descent, discussed the importance of representing a character like Alex. They believe that if they had encountered a character like Alex in their youth, it would have had a significant impact on them.

The chemistry between Zakhar Perez and Galitzine, who plays Prince Henry in the film, was built through video auditions and quickly developed during rehearsals. Their trust in each other was crucial in portraying the passionate and intimate moments between their characters. López did not shy away from depicting the sexual aspects of the story, aiming for accuracy and authenticity. While the film received an R rating, López and Galitzine questioned whether the rating would have been the same if the story involved a heterosexual couple.

As the movie prepares for its release, anticipation is high among fans. Some have expressed concerns about potential changes from the book and the elimination of certain supporting characters. However, López acknowledges that the film may not perfectly match every fan’s individual vision of the story, but he emphasizes that he is one of the fans and has poured his heart into making the film.

Despite some critiques about the themes of coming out in queer romances, many supporters believe that there is room for both stories of coming out and stories that explore other aspects of LGBTQ+ experiences. Demlow emphasizes the need for diverse representation and believes that more stories need to be heard. He states, “It’s not that we need less of something. It’s that we need more of everything.”

In conclusion, the film adaptation of “Red, White & Royal Blue” holds the promise of capturing the magic and adoration that the book has received. With a devoted fan base on BookTok and a team dedicated to bringing the story to life, the film aims to resonate with audiences and provide a much-needed representation of queer love on the screen.

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