Roland Emmerich’s drama Stonewall has ignited controversy for the way it dramatizes the 1969 riots in New York’s Greenwich village that helped launch the modern LGBT rights movement. But though the film takes a measure of artistic license, the emotions poured into it were very real, according to actor Jonny Beauchamp.
Beauchamp portrays the streetwise Puerto Rican hustler Ray, a composite character inspired by real-life activists Raymond Castro and Sylvia Rivera, and he spoke to EW at the recent Toronto International Film Festival about shooting the pivotal riot scene.
With minimal camera setups to detract from the setting and real police officers portraying the ones that clashed with the LGBT patrons of the Stonewall Inn decades ago, Beauchamp recalled that the officers “were supposed to be gentle with us, but we pulled them aside and were like, ‘You need to just go for it. You know, hit us with those sticks, man. We’re tough.’ So we kind of did a series of the scene with no cameras, and it felt like we were really there.”
The scene was so intense that Beauchamp and his costars eventually had to call for a break. “We went into the Stonewall and cried, like little boys,” he said. “I’ll never forget that day.”
For more from Beauchamp, watch the full clip above. Stonewall opens Friday.