Unassuming, welcoming, understated, even shy at times, you need to peel back the layers to uncover the man beneath the myth. But Pawtucket-based film director Richard Griffin has long been a legend in Rhode Island film circles, and is also becoming an important figure in the nation’s LGBTQ+ creative scene. We caught up with Griffin ahead of the July 31 premiere of his latest movie, Strapped for Danger II: Undercover Vice to discover why he returned to the Strapped for Danger franchise, and how the sequel is even more explosive than the first.
Amadeus Finlay (Motif): Strapped for Danger II has just landed; tell us more about the plot.
Richard Griffin: Strapped for Danger II: Undercover Vice revolves around two straight and highly inept police officers who, after blowing a big case, are forced to go undercover as gay porn actors to bust a blackmail ring involving several Republican senators. It was originally written as fiction, but now in 2020, it’s basically a documentary.
AF: How have critics responded?
RG: The critical response has been nothing but overwhelmingly positive. It’s always a worry that a sequel will not live up to the original, but so far, the reviews have been as positive, if not more so, than the original. Reviewers are really getting into the political satire of the movie, as well as the well-drawn characters, performances and the overall comic book tone of the film. I seriously couldn’t be more proud.
AF: The second in the franchise, why did you return to the Strapped for Danger setup?
RG: One of the major things I’ve loved about the original Strapped for Danger was the strong LGBTQ+ characters that writer Duncan Pflaster created. When I was growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, when you’d see a gay male in a movie, they tended to be weak, cowardly and ineffectual. So, it was a delight to see really strong, forceful and proactive gay characters. Even though you do not have to see the original Strapped for Danger to enjoy the sequel, they are very spiritually related in terms of the strength of the characters. They are also very playfully erotic, without either being blatant pornography, nor keeping it in the shadows. One of the greatest compliments I’ve gotten about the original film was from gay men who have said it was the type of film they really wish they could have seen when they were younger. That really means everything to me.
AF: How was it working with this group of actors?
RG: It was a delight. The cast was broken up into actors I’ve worked with before, and a group of fresh faces. It did take a couple of days for us to get up to speed, but that’s the nature of things. But once we got going, it was wonderful. I love working with actors who are passionate and want to bring something of themselves to their roles and, most of all, take some risks. I mean, being in a movie like this takes a lot of guts, so I applaud all of them not just for their talent, but also their bravery.
AF: What’s next for your production company, Scorpio Film Releasing? How about that long-hoped-for Richard Griffin Western?
RG: I would love to do a Western, but you know … it’s hard to find those locations in New England. Maybe someday when I decide to go really John Ford / Howard Hawks. But we have three movies currently in the works — Disorienting Dick, a dark comedy about a “gay conversation” group that may not be what it appears, Gay as the Sun, which is a satirical fake documentary, and The Taint of Equality, which is based on an award-winning, off-Broadway play by Duncan Pflaster. Obviously with COVID still being a major threat, we have to wait and see when it will be safe enough to go back into production.
AF: Where can our readers watch Strapped for Danger II?
RG: Strapped for Danger II will be having its world premiere online on July 31. Readers can find out all about it on its Facebook page: facebook.com/events/275054047148391
There is no set ticket price, but we are asking people to donate to three Rhode Island LGBTQ+ organizations.