Magazine article Newsweek

Walk like a Man, Talk like a Man: Revisiting the Real-Life Murder of Brandon Teena

Magazine article Newsweek

Walk like a Man, Talk like a Man: Revisiting the Real-Life Murder of Brandon Teena

Article excerpt

Kimberly Peirce, the director of the heartbreaking "Boys Don't Cry," has been obsessed with the story of Brandon Teena ever since she read about his death in 1993. Brandon, born as Teena Brandon, was a 21-year-old Nebraska girl who passed as a boy, dating women who found him an alluring lover. When his deception was uncovered in Falls City, where he had fallen in love with a girl named Lana, he was raped and beaten by Lana's old beau and his ex-con friend--both of whom had been Teena's friends. Before the police got around to arresting them, they murdered him.

"When I read about Brandon," the fiercely focused 32-year-old Peirce recalls, "I felt an immediate kinship. I was overwhelmed by the power of his desire to change himself into his fantasy of a boy. The absolute daring and courage to go and pull it off. So I thought it was my job to bring Brandon back to life and make sense of it for everybody."

Peirce, who made a short film about Brandon as her graduate thesis at Columbia University, wanted to tell the tale as a tragic love story--an updated "Romeo and Juliet." But she knew that her film could be only as good as the actress who played Brandon. The audience had to believe that this girl could pass. On top of that, Peirce wanted us to fall in love with this brave, confused, uneducated girl/boy--much as she had.

Mission spectacularly accomplished. This taut, sure-footed first film (acclaimed at festivals in Venice, Toronto and New York, it opens in New York Oct. …

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