Justin Kuritzkes: Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Queer’ Is a ‘Bridge’ Between ‘Two Brilliant Artists’

Although “Challengers” screenwriter Justin Kuritzkes and director Luca Guadagnino are no strangers to working with each other, their collaboration process on the upcoming film “Queer,” an adaptation of a William S. Burroughs novel that will star Daniel Craig and Drew Starkey, was entirely different.

The Black List alum previously told IndieWire on the red carpet for the Los Angeles premiere of “Challengers” that accepting the task of his first adapted screenplay was a “no brainer.” Elaborating on how exactly the task of making “Queer,” a film adaptation both Guadagnino and other filmmakers had been chasing, came to be, Kuritzkes later told IndieWire over Zoom, “One day, on the set of ‘Challengers,’ [Luca] just gave me this book and said, ‘Read this tonight and tell me if you want to write it for me.’”

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He added, “I was so completely honored and touched that Luca would trust me with this movie. And that really was a process of me trying to be a bridge between these two brilliant guys, these two brilliant artists, William S. Burroughs on the one hand and Luca on the other, and really trying to facilitate this meeting place with the two of them. To be in the midst of that, I found it so, so gratifying.”

However, there is a reason why it’s taken decades for the book to be adapted. “It’s not like one of those novels that’s written for the screen or something. It’s a pretty wild book, but the characters were there, and the story was there, and the point of view was there, the voice was there. And so it was a process of the meeting place between Burroughs’ voice and his point of view, and my voice and my point of view, and then Luca’s voice and his point of view, and trying to hold all that,” said Kuritzkes.

While “Challengers” was written on spec, meaning the screenwriter had completed a draft of it well before anyone including Guadagnino, producers Amy Pascal and Rachel O’Connor, and star Zendaya were attached to it, “Queer” was written with both the director already onboard and a knowledge of exactly what Guadagnino’s sensibilities are.

“Because I was in the middle of making a movie with Luca, I knew what kinds of scenes he was going to like filming. I would be reading the book and thinking about how I would do the scene, and I would catch myself going, ‘Luca’s not going to like that,’ then I would write it a little differently because of what I had already learned about Luca’s process,” said Kuritzkes.

“I was already thinking about it cinematically through his cinema, through Luca’s vision, which was, in a way, a really rewarding and amazing way to write a screenplay because it just shortens the process. I finished the first draft of that, and then we were able to put it together really because it was already very much a movie he was ready to make, a movie he knew how to make,” said the screenwriter.

While “Queer” does not yet have a distributor or a release date, Kuritzkes and Guadagnino’s second film collaboration is expected to premiere in 2024.

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