Today, just in time for Halloween, The True Adventures of Wolfboy premieres in select theaters and anywhere you can rent or buy movies. This isn’t a horror movie though – it’s a beautiful coming-of-age film written by Olivia Dufault, a transgender woman, about the fears and emotions trans people may experience as they approach transition.
Paul (Jaeden Martell) is the wolfboy of the title (he has hair all over his face) and he is struggling with his fear that his condition means the world will only ever see him as a freak. As Paul stumbles toward self-acceptance, he meets Aristiana (Sophie Giannamore) who has already made that journey herself as a young trans girl. As she accompanies Paul on their adventures, Aristiana embodies the self-knowledge that many trans people possess, and she quietly shows Paul what it looks like to accept yourself as you are. Giannamore, a young trans actress, stars alongside Martell, John Turturro, Chloë Sevigny, Eve Hewson, and Chris Messina.
Wolfboy has been on GLAAD’s radar since 2017 when the casting director reached out to us for help finding a trans teen to play Aristiana. When Wolfboy premiered at NewFest last year, we published an interview with Sophie Giannamore and you can read that here.
There are very few feature films with transgender characters that are written by trans people, and Wolfboy is a shining example of why trans stories are more rich, compelling, and profound when trans people tell them. Wolfboy is a transition narrative, but since it’s written by a trans woman, it’s told from the inside-out, not the outside-in. We’re so excited to talk to Olivia Dufault about her thought process behind the creation of this beautiful film.
What inspired you to write The True Adventures of Wolfboy?
It was my final semester of college, and I’d waited until the last moment to fulfill my science course requirement. I ended up begrudgingly enrolled in a genetics class, wherein I was exposed to a presentation on unusual conditions passed down hereditarily. One of these slides displayed folks living with hypertrichosis, which results in thick hair that grows on the entirety of one’s face and body. It’s where many believe the “wolfman” myth originated from.
Immediately I was struck by this intersection between the mythological and the mundane, the fantastical and the very real.
But to be brutally honest, my interest in this topic was much more personal. I’d always struggled with my own relationship to my, at the time, unruly facial hair. This potential story felt like a poignant allegory for my issues, though one which I was uncertain how much I’d fully allow myself to explore.
GLAAD and other trans advocates have repeatedly urged cisgender creators to stop writing transition narratives. For one thing, like LGB coming out stories, it’s been done repeatedly and can be reductive if that’s the only story told about trans people. More importantly, the “before during and after transition” stories written by cis people are just not well done or authentic. But for me, Wolfboy is what a transition narrative looks like when a trans person writes it. Were you conscious of trying to write a different type of transition narrative?
I didn’t necessarily set out to write a transition narrative, but as my life and this script proceeded forward in parallel, I soon realized what this story wanted and needed to be.
I began writing Wolfboy about seven years ago, when I was twenty-six. At that time, I was grappling with gender dysphoria, before ultimately reaching the conclusion that I needed to transition in order to essentially survive. It was a thrilling and terrifying time; I was giddy and raw, confronting decades of internalized self-loathing and fear of societal acceptance. I desperately needed to process these feelings, and overcome the insecurities that had festered for so long in my brain. In many ways, writing Wolfboy was essentially the act of me mustering up the courage to transition.
Even at that stage of my life, however, I’d grown tired of the typical “transition narrative” tropes. I didn’t want to underplay the challenges of self-acceptance, but I also didn’t want to see a young trans person struggle endlessly onscreen. There’s enough trans trauma in this world.
As such, employing an allegory (as is so often done in fairytales!) felt like the perfect opportunity to discuss these complicated topics in a way that was unique, honest, and compassionate.
I really appreciate the fact that Aristiana isn’t subjected to the “trans trauma” that we’ve seen in other films.
Other writers might have chosen to leave the transgender story allegorical, but you chose to create Aristiana, a young trans girl who befriends Paul. For me, Paul and Aristiana both represent trans people at different stages of transition: one just starting out and full of fear, and the other comfortable with herself and her place in the world. Is that just me? Or did you choose to write Paul and Aristiana that way?
It’s not just you! This was absolutely intentional on my part. Paul and Aristiana very much represented my internal dialogue with myself, as I was processing my anxieties and overcoming my fears associated with transitioning. Paul was where I was, Aristiana was where I wanted to be.
I love allegories, but one of the problems associated with them is that they can often result in the erasure of a marginalized group of people that they’re intended to represent. As such, it was very important to me from the gestation of this project to depict a vibrant young trans person who was resilient, self-assured, and had already found a community of folks who embraced her.
ted to create a character that I could have watched at age thirteen and both resonated with and been inspired by.
Not to spoil anything about the story, but there is a scene where Paul gets to talk to an elder who also has hair all over his face and body, and Paul asks him “How hard is my life going to be?” I feel like young queer people often long to ask that question of queer elders, yet we rarely have them in our own families. That scene nearly brought me to tears. Did you have any trans elders in your life that you could talk to, or is this scene a moment you wish you could have had?
Sadly, this scene was absolute wish fulfillment on my part. At that time in my life, I would have very much appreciated a trans mentor figure to provide me with practical knowledge and emotional reassurance. I didn’t have that person, so I did the next best thing, and wrote one (of a sort) into existence!
What was it like to work with Sophie Giannamore as she brought Aristiana to life? Are you still in contact with her?
Sophie’s a brilliant actor and an even more brilliant human being. Getting to collaborate with her was one of the highlights of this whole experience. The first time I saw her and Jaeden Martell rehearse a scene together, I got chills. It’s impossible to imagine the character being portrayed by anyone else.
I’m fortunate enough to still remain in contact with Sophie and her family. I just had a socially distanced dinner with them a month ago! We spent the majority of the time gleefully bad-mouthing the Republican party.
I know you’ve written for AMC’s Preacher and FX’s Legion, is there anything else coming up on the horizon for you that we should keep an eye out for?
I have a few exciting projects currently in development, but unfortunately none that I can speak of officially. But stay tuned! I have an indefatigable determination to force the stories I want to see out into this world.
Check out the trailer below for The True Adventures of Wolfboy which is now available in select theaters and anywhere you can rent or buy movies.