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Fourplay director Kyle Henry talks about the exploration of sex and intimacy as a narrative

Paul Soileau as sex worker Aliya in Fourplay.
Paul Soileau as sex worker Aliya in Fourplay.

In director Kyle Henry's latest film, Fourplay, nothing is off limits, sexually speaking. But this isn't some cheap porn flick: The movie delves into the oft-missed intimate details of a sexual narrative as the characters in four vignettes face many personal challenges.

In advance of the film's opening this Friday, March 15, at the Sie FilmCenter, Henry spoke with Westword about the frank nature of Fourplay -- without giving too much away, of course.

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Westword: How did these four stories come together? Was there one vignette in particular that was the impetus for this film?

Kyle Henry: I think the impetus for the film really was meeting the inspiration for "San Francisco," the final segment. It was a real cross-dressing sex worker in San Francisco who goes by the name of Chloe. I was nervous about meeting Chloe -- Chloe was an old friend of Jessica Hedrick, the screenwriter for the first vignette, when she was a women's studies major.

She said, you know, this person is a real film lover, and I think you two would get along -- and by the way, he's a sex worker. I have to say, I did have preconceptions for meeting him -- but when I met him, he just had such interesting stories, and really subverted a lot of stereotypes that I had about what he did. He's someone who's really articulate; he's someone who believes what he's doing is a useful job, a calling of some kind.

And I think for me, the inspiration was to subvert these notions that we have about sex and to tell these stories with sex as a major narrative element. That's why we use the comedy, the drama, the tears and the pain of something we all participate in.

Was there a particular reason for the order of the four stories? I was startled by the opening vignette, "Skokie" -- bestiality isn't often so, um, openly shown.

You know what? We're telling you what kind of film you're in, right off the bat. If you're going to be startled by "Skokie," just wait until you get to "Tampa" [laughs]. Believe it or not, we give you a somewhat gentle introduction to what you're going to see later.

For sure, though, we always wanted it to end with the "San Francisco" section, because for me, I tell people, if you're going to risk coming out to see an adult film, I didn't want to drop you off at the curb and abandon you. I wanted to reward you and leave you leaving the theater, hopefully, with a good feeling about the adventurous stories we're telling.

The characters may have shame and be going through shameful events and actions, but at the end, they've learned something from their experiences -- like we all do.

Director Kyle Henry.
Director Kyle Henry.

I personally saw some symbolic characters -- other than the obvious Jesus and Hitler references in "Tampa." I saw some typical gay-porn stereotypes, with the very masculine army officer and the older biker and the timid pink-shirt-wearing first-timer.

Yeah. In many ways, they're stereotypes. Again, the overarching theme was to subvert stereotypes and to not judge books by their covers.

I think the reason we began with "Skokie," too, was because it's about a character who is just discovering something about themselves -- I can't imagine the character of Gail even having an orgasm in her life before this strange thing occurs. And then ending with the sex worker who's, like, the most proficient with sex as a way to sort of end it, with a journey.

I loved seeing actor Paul Soileau play both his trademark drag persona, Christeene Vale, and character outside of that as the sex worker, Aliya.

Isn't he a great actor? I have seen Christeene and also his other character, Rebecca Havemeyer, but it was still surprising for me to realize that Paul is a really good actor. Paul can be incredibly intimate and present in a very small, nuanced way. He's not only a great theatrical actor, he's a person who holds the camera's attention and you believe everything he's doing. I think that's going to surprise a lot of Christeene fans, and I hope they come to see this other side of Paul.

I liked that you took on a transgendered role and a character with a disability and put them in a sex-work scenario to show compassion. That's not typical.

We wanted to have outrageous situations but find the human being in it, and never forget that these people -- even though the stories are outrageous -- are relatable. We all have crazy stories. The most entertaining and touching is when we see ourselves in situations and in these characters, too.

Fourplay screens this Friday, March 15, at the Sie FilmCenter as part of the ongoing Cinema Q Series. Director Kyle Henry will be on hand for a post-show Q&A, included in the ticket price. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the FilmCenter's website.