BY GREG GORMAN
What happens when an openly gay actor
stars in a Christian-funded film about missionaries?
Chances are, not quite what you'd think.
NICK BURNS | 1.1.2006
CHAD ALLEN HAS CERTAINLY
BEEN KNOWN to explore uncharted territory in his work of late. The
openly gay actor recently starred as TVís first out queer detective in
the here! Networks series Third Man Out. And this month, he forges
wilder frontiers with End of the Spear, a big-screen indie flickóoddly
enough, shepherded by conservative Christiansóin which he portrays both
the evangelical missionary, Steve Saint, and his son. The true story of
five missionaries who were murdered in 1956 in the Ecuadorian Amazon,
End of the Spear documents a familyís journey back into the jungle to
make contact with the violent tribe once again. We tracked down Allen at
the W Hotel in Chicago and interrogated him as to how an out and proud
gay man landed two pivotal roles in the film, and why gay moviegoers
shouldnít skip it.
attracted you to End of the Spear?
Itís an amazing story! The filmís not only about the deaths of the
missionaries, but the familyís journey. At the same time, itís about the
tribeís radical spiritual transformation from hate and fear to
loveówhich ended the killing that threatened to wipe out their society.
Were you nervous about playing a Christian missionary in a
Christian-funded film? Thatís a gamble for all parties involved, right?
I had my hesitations, but not about playing a missionary. I knew the
people who were producing this story were conservative, Evangelical
Christians and how important this was to them. So, I wondered if they
knew what they were doing by casting me. I scheduled a meeting with the
filmmakers and said, ďI think itís great that you guys want me to do
this film, but you have to understand that this is who I am. I need to
know that you get that and respect that.Ē But they already knew all
about it. We all made a commitment to work together.
Do you think that gay audiences might hesitate to see the film
because itís associated with conservative Christians?
I hope my audience will go because itís a great story. Some gay people
may automatically feel that itís coming from the enemy, but my goal is
to dispel that idea. The message of this movie is the same message that
I hope to carry in the work that I doóa message of love. Itís only our
perceived barriers that hold us back. Our perception of anybody as an
enemy is destructive. And the producers resisted making an overtly
preachy Christian film.
Although the film takes place in the Amazon jungle, it was shot in
Panama. Why not shoot the film in the Waodani village in Ecuador?
The Waodani live three days from the nearest telephone in Ecuador, and
itís hard to shoot a movie without telephones. [Laughs.] We worked with
a tribe in Panama that lives in a traditional manner. Some had never
seen a movie. We cast them to play the Waodani and brought movie cameras
into their world. We discovered they were extraordinary actors! They
were able to give themselves over to make-believe in a powerful way.
They didnít have the same hesitations or fears that some actors have.
The director would ask a tribe member to believe they were dying and
they were able to go there 100%. I saw some terrifyingly realistic
performances coming out of these kids who had never spent a day in
acting class. It made me wonder what the hell Iíve been doing all these
PHOTOS BY GREG GORMAN
You lived in the jungle for three months?
No. We lived at a hotel on the Panama Canal. We shot in the surrounding
jungles and traveled out to nearby locations. We shot along the
riverbanks, and had arsenals of long riverboats with huge Hollywood
So, you werenít exactly roughing it.
No. [Laughs.] The roof did leak a little, but Panama wasnít roughing it ó
Ecuador was roughing it! I was invited by the Waodani to go into the
Amazon and live with them for a couple weeks after we finished filming. We
learned to hunt with poison darts and blowguns, we speared catfish in the
river, we built and thatched our own roofs ó it was just incredible.
Did you miss city life?
Not really. Well, actually I craved peanut butter, I donít know whyóand
air conditioning. We slept in hammocks because you canít sleep on the
ground ó itís always wet and there were snakes. And we had to cover our
heads, hands and feet while we slept, because vampire bats would land on
you and suck your blood at night. And evidently, Iím a bug magnet, so bugs
came from miles away just to hang out with me.
How did you communicate with the tribes people?
A lot of the younger kids speak Spanish. When you are living with
people, you find ways to communicate. There was one boy, he was probably
16, and he just followed me around. We couldnít speak a word to each
other because he couldnít speak Spanish. But we communicated and it was
like I had a little brother for a week.
Off-camera, how are you these days? Howís your love life?
Iím dating; Iím happy
Who are you dating?
A special person.
A special person, but not a famous person?
My current guy and I met about 5 months ago. So far, so good.
Relationships are scary and beautiful and amazing and the most
significant way that we learn about each other.
Finally, was your experience with End of the Spear worth it?
I would do it all again in a secondóbug bites and all.