It was the movie everyone was doing their best not to talk about. Indeed, when The Crying Game opened on Nov. 25, 1992, critics tied themselves in verbal knots to avoid revealing its gender-bending twist. To have given it away would have just plain spoiled that year’s most unique romantic thriller, about the affair between an IRA terrorist (Stephen Rea) and a sultry London hairdresser (Jaye Davidson) who, halfway through the film, exposes herself to be a, well, himself.
”To me, it was like Chinatown with a secret,” says Harvey Weinstein, cochairman (with brother Bob) of the movie’s U.S. distributor, Miramax Films. And that secret was the key to selling the film: The studio’s ad campaign played up the movie’s pivotal plot revelation, while urging audiences not to reveal it. That, plus some of the year’s strongest reviews, helped The Crying Game open big in New York and L.A. The result was Miramax’s first major crossover hit, which grossed $62.5 million and garnered six Oscar nominations.
Of course, neither the secret nor the hype surrounding it would have worked without the presence of newcomer Davidson, who brought an androgynous beauty and preternatural poise to the part of Dil, The Crying Game‘s femme/homme fatale. Discovered at a London party, the self-described ”fashion assistant” went on to receive a Best Supporting Actor nod—a feat he laughed off as a ”fluke,” saying ”It was the role that was nominated, not me.”
Not surprisingly, Davidson’s unique screen presence didn’t lead to an avalanche of movie offers, nor did he seem to want them. Davidson patiently endured his 15 minutes of fame, then slipped back to the sidelines of the London fashion world. He briefly resurfaced in 1994 to play an alien in the sci-fi hit StarGate, then appeared as himself in the 1995 fashion documentary Catwalk. He hasn’t been heard from since.
The Crying Game did, however, reverse the fortunes of its writer-director, Neil Jordan, who’d needed to reestablish his indie rep after doing Hollywood pap like High Spirits (1988) and We’re No Angels (1989). After getting back to his roots, Jordan learned to play the Hollywood game on his own terms, directing Tom Cruise in 1994’s Interview With the Vampire.
But perhaps the biggest winner was Miramax; since The Crying Game, the Weinsteins have evolved into major Hollywood players, with help from Disney, which scooped up the indie powerhouse for $60 million plus in 1993. ”[They’d] been flirting with us for so long,” Weinstein recalls. ”But when they saw The Crying Game, they said, ‘Okay, that’s it. This is something we have to do.’ The Crying Game was the clincher.”