How best to describe Zachary Quinto in The Boys in the Band on Netflix? His costume—a velvet green suit, a wide purple tie, a pink collared shirt, and rose-tinted glasses—is every stereotype of 70s fashion that you’ve ever imagined. His voice is like a warped Austin Powers impression, and his wig is almost too much to handle. But it’s the entrance that really ties this aesthetic all together; an entrance that will have Quinto fans either screaming in delight or cringing in second-hand embarrassment. An entrance, without a doubt, for the ages.
Quinto first played the role of Harold—a gay man who shows up late to his own birthday party—on Broadway in the 2018 Tony-winning revival of this play. Originally written by Mart Crowley in 1968, the story follows seven gay men living in New York City who all gather to celebrate Harold’s birthday. When the host of the party, Michael (played by Jim Parsons in the revival and 2020 film) receives an unexpected visit from his homophobic college roommate, the night is thrown into turmoil. But even those who caught Quinto on Broadway (sans wig) may not be prepared for his entrance as Harold in the 2020 film, a brilliant sequence helmed by director Joe Mantello (who also directed the Broadway revival).
It comes about 40 minutes in. Everyone, including the audience, has been waiting for Harold to show up to his own party already. Instead, we got Michael’s homophobic roommate Alan (Brian Hutchison) who brings the party to a standstill with his boring straight-ness. Though he never admits it, most of the other men suspect Alan is there because he, himself, is a closeted gay man. Regardless of the reason, Alan is so uncomfortable with the idea of homosexuality that he punches Michael’s friend Emory (Robin de Jesús) in the face for no reason other than the fact that he’s visibly and audibly queer.
It is among this chaos that Harold—who later describes himself as “a 32-year-old ugly, pock-marked Jew fairy”—enters. We see him only from behind at first, calmly smoking a cigarette as he slowly takes the stairs, completely unperturbed by the sounds of chaos echoing within Michael’s apartment.
We still don’t see his face as he puts out his cigarette and rings the doorbell; just a close-up of his black leather shoe crushing the embers into the tile floor. Donald (Matt Bomer) answers the door, and still, we don’t fully see Harold—just his glasses-clad eyes in the reflection of his cigarette book’s mirror, where he’s checking his hair own last time. Finally, finally, he turns around and we see Quinto in all of his contrived ugly glory. (It takes a lot to make an A-list movie star look unattractive.)
Oh, and did I mention that as soon as Quinto walks through the door, he kisses Charlie Carver, aka Huck Finnigan from Ratched, square on the lips for a solid 15 seconds? Iconic.
Love or hate the performance—which perhaps seemed slightly less extra on stage than it does on film—you’ve got to give it up for one hell of an entrance. Soon after, Quinto utters Harold’s memorable line, his voice dripping with contempt: “Who is she? Who was she? Who does she hope to be?”
He’s talking about Alan the homophobe, but based on this scene alone, the questions feel more applicable to himself.
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