Naming the most emotional scene from the new film Spoiler Alert is a real Sophie’s Choice—in that just thinking about any of them will make you start crying on the spot.
The movie, which expanded into wide release over the weekend, is an unrelenting geyser of emotion. Based on entertainment journalist Michael Ausiello’s book, Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies, it tells the story of Michael meeting and falling in love with his future husband, Kit, in New York City; the ups, downs, and Smurfs of their relationship; and his experience caring for Kit as he was dying of cancer.
The book and the film make sure that you’re aware of that, not to be glib, “spoiler” from the start. It lends context to the story of a complete relationship, both the difficulty and the joy of it. Love, as illuminated through Michael and Kit’s story, is a privilege. It’s a privilege to have had it at all, to be able to work through the setbacks, and to be at that person’s side at the end of their life, as hard as that may be.
It is a film that will make you cry. Weep. Sob. Make involuntary noises you didn’t expect to make because you’re so overcome with emotion. (Sally Field plays Kit’s mother, just so you know to add an extra box of Kleenex to your Amazon order before watching.) But it’s also so full of humor, joy, and hope.
Jim Parsons plays Michael in the film, and Ben Aldridge plays Kit. Who had the tougher job in this casting? “Ben was playing somebody who not only didn’t any longer have a physical voice here on earth to speak for himself, but was also doing so in front of the man who loved him dearly and had written the story about him,” Parsons told The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, when we spoke ahead of Spoiler Alert’s premiere earlier this month.
Ausiello agreed—and was impressed by Aldridge’s performance. “It was a bit more surreal seeing Ben as Kit, because he looks like Kit,” he said. “And some of his mannerisms were eerily similar to Kit’s. One of the pieces of feedback I get from folks who knew Kit very well who have seen the movie is that it’s amazing how similar Ben is to Kit. It’s both unsettling and magical that Ben was able to pull that off.”
When I first talked to Ausiello after he saw the film, I wondered less what might have been the most painful part for him to watch, but what was the happiest moment he was able to relive through the film and the actors’ performances. “The deck scene is the highlight of the movie for me,” Ausiello said.
The scene takes place after Kit receives his terminal diagnosis: He is going to die, and there is no hope that further treatment will help. When they get home, he and Michael go to their backyard and have what may be the most candid conversation of their relationship. Kit starts smoking marijuana, which had previously been a tension point between the two of them. For the first time, Michael also partakes.
Michael then asks Kit if he’s scared to die. It’s a wrecking ball through a window that allows them to clear the air about so many things. They talk about their relationship. They talk about the problems they’ve had. Michael asks if Kit had an affair with the coworker he always suspected. Kit says yes. It’s not an argument. It’s not even particularly difficult. It’s the truth, and the most intimate conversation we see the two of them have. Almost in real time, we see wounds from the past heal and love grow. At the end of the scene, Kit asks Michael to marry him.
“It’s so faithful to what actually happened that night,” Ausiello said. “Michael Showalter did such a beautiful job directing it. It just… it feels like it takes time. Michael just allowed that moment to breathe and exist. It didn’t feel rushed. I love watching it. Even though it seems fraught there’s sadness in it, it brings me joy because there’s so much healing in that moment.”
When I bring up the scene to Parsons and Aldridge, they get visibly excited. “I hope this isn’t too long a story that it loses its point,” Parsons said, “but I have to tell you…”
During that day of production, they shot two scenes: a walk-and-talk on a sidewalk, and the one on the deck. For seemingly no reason at all, nothing gelled when they shot that first scene. Something was off. The vibes weren’t right. “It was the only time in the whole shoot when we were deeply, deeply unhappy,” Parsons said.
They broke for lunch and went to their respective trailers. “If I may so… I think you don’t mind,” Parsons said, looking at Aldridge, “[Ben] screamed into a pillow.” But then they got together and just talked. It was a rare quiet moment. “We could hear each other.” Then they went to the patio, and everything clicked.
“There’s so much that goes on,” Aldridge said. “There’s so much that transfers between them. There’s so much love. It starts with looking up at the sky and smoking, contemplating life. And then the rest of it starts up from there.”
“We rarely get a chance to be in a scene that goes on such a winding road,” Parsons added. “I mean, it’s a scene that starts with one man asking another man what his feelings are on death, which is fast approaching. Then it veers into, did you cheat on me? Can you finally tell me the answer? Then it’s, can I try this drug that you enjoy so much? Then it’s a proposal.”
“It’s really rewarding that Michael feels that most reflects the reality of their life as well,” Aldridge said.
Near the end of my conversation with Ausiello, he had a really lovely smile on his face, having just thought about and recounted that scene—that moment in his life. I asked him if there was anything else he thinks I should know about the experience of working with Parsons and Aldridge on the film.
He took a long beat, and then talked about how, while filming, Parsons kept his distance from Ausiello on set, as part of his process. But then came the day when it was time to shoot Kit’s death in the hospital. After a few takes, Parsons walked over to the “video village,” where Ausiello was observing. It wasn’t something the actor normally did.
“He just gave me a hug,” Ausiello said. “And then all he said was, ‘I just felt like I needed to do that,’ and then he left. It was a really beautiful moment.”