Cautionary tale depicts downward spiral and gay romance

Mark Elias as James, courtesy of DFM Creative

Mark Elias is the co-writer and star of the naughty, queer-themed cautionary tale, “Golden Boy,” an independent feature film now available On Demand. Elias, who grew up in Philadelphia — his parents moved to the city’s suburbs when he was three months old — plays James, a young man struggling in Los Angeles. 

As the film opens, James loses his liquor store delivery job and gets locked out of his apartment for not paying rent. When he connects with a customer, CQ (Lex Medlin), he is given a bed and a job delivering packages that likely contain drugs. As James befriends Houston (Logan Fahey), a party boy, he also begins a relationship with Josh (Paul Culos), a gay photographer. However, James soon finds his new life spiraling out of control as he becomes involved with drugs and gay sex work.

In a recent phone interview, Elias talked about creating “Golden Boy,” which stems in part from his own experiences. He explained that in Los Angeles, he met people who offered to help him or befriend him only to come to the realization: “I don’t know what’s happening here.” 

Some of that confusion is shown in the film. James is naïve, a deliberate decision on Elias’ part. He said, “James lived a sheltered life — and not in a good way. He doesn’t even have a smartphone. Is he even on the internet? He lived in a small bubble and doesn’t know what he wants. We’ve seen the 18-year-old in this situation, but how about a [slightly older] guy who has never had anything good in his life? Someone comes along and shines a light on him; James is not thinking about the repercussions.”

Those “repercussions” cause James to use his body to survive. Several scenes in the film feature James keeping company with men for money. Elias observed that sex work is James’ only option, “Your body has a price. It’s weirdly cliché, but starkly fucking real.” 

However, “Golden Boy” does balance the exploitative scenes with James’ sweet relationship with Josh. 

Mark Elias as James (left) and Logan Fahey as Houston (right) in “Golden Boy,” courtesy of DFM Creative

Notably, the screenplay does not provide much backstory for James’ character. As such, Elias conveys James’ despair and “how he got to where he got” through his expressions and body language. He is seen being eager to please CQ, brotherly towards Houston, and romantic with Josh. James, along with his relationship with each of the men, changes in dramatic ways as the story unfolds.

His character has a speech about “being invisible,” and others often describe him as a “lost boy.” The reality that young men like James get caught up in drugs, debt and sex work is at the heart of “Golden Boy.” Elias recounted, “Some people move to LA to ‘be’ LA — drive a convertible and live the glamorous life. I’m authentic and look to be real and find a truth. I’m not into that posturing. It’s so easy to become invisible here. James’ story isn’t uncommon. There are so many stories like this out there.”

Elias created a character who was squarely in his acting wheelhouse. But one of the issues the actor faced was determining how much of the drugs and sex work lifestyle to portray on screen. 

He said, “James is partying at 3 a.m. when he shouldn’t be. I didn’t want to go into the drug thing, but James’ spiral involves doing the drugs, so that has to happen. That is part of the dark underbelly in Hollywood. People live this way a lot more than people think. There’s glitz and glamour, but go off the boulevard, and Hollywood is struggling. It’s a dirty, scary street you don’t want to go down at night. This film is a huge reflection of that.”

With the lurid storyline, Elias also had to decide what scenes he would perform on screen. When it came to the sex and nude scenes, the actor acknowledged, “I love edgy films and stuff I don’t want to do. As the writer, these scenes needed to happen. As the actor, it’s like, ‘Fuck, that needs to happen!’ You’re doing it for the challenge as an actor and trying to write the best thing you can. It is service the story first; otherwise, it becomes a vanity project.”

Making “Golden Boy” helped Elias as an actor and a person. He admitted, “I learned that I can do anything. What I put out there with ‘Golden Boy’ is doing what it’s supposed to do: it brings work. The only perfect roles are the ones I write for me. But then you worry that no one is going to see it.”

Hopefully, folks will see Elias’ film, and he will get more opportunity to display his talents.