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In slasher 'They/Them,' queer people are the heroes, not the victims

"They/Them" writer and director John Logan said he wanted the Peacock horror film, set in an eerie conversion therapy camp, to include "a collection of heroes."

John Logan is no stranger to crafting blockbuster films, having written the screenplays for “Gladiator,” “Hugo,” “Skyfall,” “The Aviator” and “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” But for his feature directorial debut, the three-time Oscar-nominated screenwriter wanted to pen a love letter to the slasher genre with a set of queer protagonists that his younger self always wanted to see.

“Horror movies have a very complicated relationship with gender and sexual identity, and when I was growing up and watching the first cycle of slasher films, for example, or any horror movies, queer characters were underrepresented,” Logan, 60, told NBC News in a video interview. “They were either invisible, which was horrific in a way, or they were jokes or they were victims, and I know how much it would have meant to me when I was 12, 13, 14 to see a queer hero.”

Produced by Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions, “They/Them” — which is cleverly pronounced “they-slash-them” and premieres Friday on Peacock — follows a group of LGBTQ campers who are promised “a new sense of freedom” when they arrive at Camp Whistler, a conversion therapy camp run by Owen Whistler (Kevin Bacon), his sadistic therapist wife Cora (Carrie Preston) and a group of suspiciously inviting counselors. But as the workers attempt to break down each of the attendees, a mysterious killer starts claiming unsuspecting victims, and the campers are forced to band together in the fight for survival.

Theo Germaine, center, and Austin Crute in "They/Them." Josh Stringer / BlumhouseThe terrifying premise for “They/Them” had been germinating in Logan’s mind for years, he said, and he wrote two of the roles with specific actors in mind: Bacon as the owner and Brazilian actor Darwin Del Fabro as an enigmatic camper named Gabriel. And while he had not initially considered helming the film, Logan “became very attached” as he wrote the screenplay, “because it was so personal,” and Blum encouraged him to direct it, Logan said.

“Very rarely I write with a particular actor in mind, but the minute I sat down to start writing Owen Whistler, I kept hearing Kevin’s voice,” he explained. “One of the things that Kevin is so adept at is playing nuance. When we first meet Owen Whistler, he seems very sane, very reasonable and charming, and Kevin could charm the birds from the trees, and yet he’s able to also just turn on a moment to have a threat and an aura of danger around him. … He was a great collaborator all the way through.”

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