Drew Starkey to Star With Daniel Craig in Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Queer’ With Filming Starting This Month in Italy (EXCLUSIVE)

Luca Guadagnino will next direct the William S. Burroughs adaptation “Queer” with Daniel Craig playing the renowned counterculture author’s alter ego, an outcast American expat who lives in Mexico, and “Outer Banks” star Drew Starkey starring as a younger man with whom he becomes madly infatuated.

“Queer” will also topline Lesley Manville (“The Crown”), frequent Wes Anderson collaborator Jason Schwartzman; and Henry Zaga (“The New Mutants”), according to inside sources.

The boldly ambitious indie film is set to start shooting this month at Rome’s refurbished Cinecittà Studios where the Mexico City-set movie will be filmed in its entirety.

Lorenzo Mieli’s Fremantle-owned Italian company The Apartment – the internationally expanding shingle behind Guadagnino’s “Bones and All” and Sofia Coppola’s upcoming “Priscilla” – is lead producing “Queer” in tandem with Guadagnino’s own Frenesy Film. Fremantle North America is also on board.

American playwright Justin Kuritzkes, who penned Guadagnino’s upcoming sexy comedy “Challengers” starring Zendaya, Josh O’Connor, and Mike Fast – which has now completed post – has adapted the Burroughs novel for the big screen, continuing his collaboration with the Italian director.

British designer Jonathan Anderson, who has shaken up the fashion world with his creations for Loewe and his subversive signature JW Anderson label, will also continue to collaborate with Guadagnino as costume designer on “Queer” after handling the costumes on “Challengers.”

“It is one of my all time favorite books. And the film has everything – Mexico, lots of drugs, and Daniel Craig,” Anderson recently told The Guardian.

Written between 1951 and 1953 but not published until 1985, “Queer” is Burroughs’s second novel after “Junkie.” Set in decadent Mexico City of the 1940s, it’s the semi-autobiographical story of Lee who has fled from a drug bust in New Orleans. In Mexico City Lee wanders around the city’s clubs and bars populated by American expatriate college students, discharged soldiers, and other characters on the edge of society. He becomes infatuated with a discharged American Navy serviceman named Allerton, a drug user, who, though indifferent to his advances, eventually relents — but only enough to make Lee’s sexual yearnings become even more of an obsession. Eventually they go on a trip to South America in search of a drug known as “Yage” which Lee believes will make him psychic. 

The interior monologues in “Queer,” which are full of self-deprecating black humor, are considered precursors to the comic-grotesque fantasies in “The Naked Lunch,” the novel considered to be Burroughs’s masterpiece, which was adapted for the big screen by David Cronenberg.

“Queer” will mark the most prominent film role to date for Starkey, 29, who is known globally for his role on Netflix’s “Outer Banks” as Rafe Cameron, the handsome often violent teen with a killer streak, a cocaine addiction, and an identity crisis.

 Starkey is repped by Gersh and Luber Roklin.

Craig, before becoming a global star playing a fictional British MI6 agent in five James Bond installments, played the gay love interest character in British director John Maybury’s 1998 drama “Love Is the Devil – Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon.” The experimental biopic, which screened in Cannes, is about the destructive drug and alcohol-infused relationship between painter Francis Bacon, played by Derek Jacobi, and George Dyer (Craig) a younger small-time criminal who became the artists’ muse.

More recently Craig almost surreptitiously played a gay character in his role as private investigator Benoit Blanc in a “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” A scene in “Glass Onion” suggests Blanc is in a gay relationship, as the actor and director Rian Johnson have confirmed. 

Guadagnino made his first big splash with tender romantic drama “Call Me By Your Name” starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer as young American lovers in Italy which bowed at Sundance in 2017 and went on to score four Oscar nominations, including one for Chalamet.

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