Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue – an LGBTQ romcom novel about the Prince of England and the U.S. president’s son falling in love despite a despising each other at first – was a smash hit when it came out in 2019, quickly becoming a New York Times bestseller and creating a devoted fanbase. Captivated by the international screwball romance, the book’s enthusiastic fanbase has created everything from artistic renderings of swoon-worthy moments between main characters Alex and Henry to playlists based on songs McQuiston wrote into the plot.


But even for the most devoted readers, there will be a few surprises when the Red, White & Royal Blue film – starring Nicholas Galitzine, Taylor Zakhar Perez and Uma Thurman — comes out Aug. 11 on Amazon Prime Video.

“Casey was never insistent that I make Casey’s Book: The Film,” Matthew Lopez, the film’s director and co-writer, tells Billboard. “She always wanted me to make Matthew’s movie. She trusted that someone who loved the book was in charge of the film.”

The cinematic adaptation is Lopez’s directorial debut after conquering Broadway, earning a Tony for his acclaimed 2019 play The Inheritance and earning a second Tony nom this year for co-writing the book to Some Like It Hot, a musical based on the gender-bending 1959 film. He first encountered McQuiston’s book pre-pandemic and recalls that it “refused to be ignored – it absolutely stayed in my imagination.” After successfully lobbying for the director’s chair on the movie adaptation, Lopez began working with music supervisors Kristen Higuera and Maggie Phillips on the soundtrack.

While many of the songs mentioned in the book do feature in the film (Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”; Lil Jon’s “Get Low”), Lopez followed his muse — and not the page — in certain instances.

In one key scene, the star-crossed lovers slow dance in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, despite it being after hours (one of the many perks of being a prince). In the book, Elton John’s “Your Song” plays, but cinematically, that didn’t track for Lopez.

“I love Sir Elton — he’s been such a supporter of mine throughout my career — but the scene I envisioned, I couldn’t hear that song,” he tells Billboard. With the help of his music supervisors, the aching, lovelorn voice of Mike Hadreas found its way into the film via Perfume Genius’ 2016 cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” It was originally supposed to be an on-set placeholder until Hadreas recorded a new, different cover, but after living with it for months, Lopez decided he couldn’t see or hear the scene any other way.

“I felt terrible calling Mike,” Lopez says. “[I told him] ‘I have good news and bad news. The bad news is I don’t need a cover from you. The good news is I already have one [from you].”

Another cover that prominently features in the film is a fresh reimagining of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel classic “If I Loved You” performed by Vagabon. “I knew her voice and her sound, married to that classical music theater, was going to be the right match,” says Lopez, who describes himself as “a huge musical theater nerd.” When he approached Vagabon (Laetitia Tamko) with the idea, she wasn’t familiar with the song, which made him doubly sure of the decision. “It was great, because she had no associations,” he reasons. “It’s a new way of looking at it.”

Having familiar songs with new voices was important to Lopez for this queer romcom. “This movie was always about, for me, new ways of doing old things — that was the ethos of the film, so I wanted to try and get a couple covers in there.”

Another example of putting a new twist on something familiar came via Oliver Sim. The filmmakers asked the solo artist and The xx member for an original composition, but after he watched an early cut of the film, he told Lopez, “I think I’ve already written the song for the movie.”

“It was his idea to take the song ‘Fruit’ from his most recent album and completely re-orchestrate it,” Lopez explains. “He said, ‘I made the acoustic version; now I want to make the cinematic version.’ He took something very delicate and blew it up to these epic proportions. It sounds so swoon-y and hopeful. That was a big win, for me, to get him to do that — I have my own bespoke version of an Oliver Sim song,” he adds with a smirk.

You can see what else made its way into the film when it begins streaming on Prime Video on Aug. 11.


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