Appropriate Behavior Writer/Director/Star Opens Up About Being a Bisexual Filmmaker

Portrait by Daniel Jack Lyons; hair and makeup by Asie Mohtarez

Desiree Akhavan’s first feature film, Appropriate Behavior, is generating major buzz. Written and directed by and starring Akhavan, the comedy’s website describes it as follows:

For Shirin, being part of a perfect Persian family isn’t easy. Acceptance eludes her from all sides: her family doesn’t know she’s bisexual, and her ex-girlfriend, Maxine, can’t understand why she doesn’t tell them. … Following a family announcement of her brother’s betrothal to a parentally approved Iranian prize catch, Shirin embarks on a private rebellion involving a series of pansexual escapades, while trying to decipher what went wrong with Maxine.

It debuted at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and will be released in cities across the U.S. and made available on iTunes and On Demand Jan. 16. Akhavan was kind enough to make time to sit down with me on the day of her premiere at Lincoln Center. It’s safe to say I don’t think I’ve ever laughed this much during an interview. Enjoy.

Phillip M. Miner: You have a bunch of interviews, photo shoots, and your movie’s premiere at Lincoln Center. How weird is that?

Desiree Akhavan: You know, it’s funny. Since the film was released last year, every two or three months I’ll go through a stage of a lot this kind of thing. I think the most intense period was at the London Film Festival in October, and I had a full week of back-to-back press. I would sit in a hotel room like a whore, and one after another they would come in the room. It was really intense. I went insane after a while.

PM: So I guess let’s begin our 30-minute interview where I’ll probably ask the same questions.

DA: [Laughs.] It’s definitely not the first time this has happened this year, but it is the first time this has happened in my life. It is very surprising, and it’s very weird. All of this will go away, and I’ll go back to watching Friends on Netflix and masturbating.

PM: [Laughs.] You just described my last weekend. I have a Netflix category, “You might enjoy masturbating to this.”

DA: [Laughs.] I don’t masturbate to Friends. But those are my go-to procrastination tactics. It’s, like, Jezabel.com, Huffington Post, Friends. Before that it was Gilmore Girls, whatever is new on Netflix, really — and masturbation. During a breakup once I power-watched all of Felicity in a week.

PM: Were you a Ben or a Noel fan?

DA: Ben. The dorky R.A. can go fuck himself.

PM: Agreed. I bet I’m the only interviewer who asked you that. Moving right along: Was it a challenge to take writing something like The Slope and move to writing a feature film?

DA: It was the next step. I was ready for it. The Slope was absurd and worked really well for a 5-minute Web series. For a film, the scope and performance had to feel different. Even though Shirin in this film is a bit of a caricature, she’s much more grounded than the Desiree and Ingrid…

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