Michael Ausiello on the Real-Life Love and Loss That Led to the Heart-Wrenching New Movie 'Spoiler Alert'

Linda Källérus/© 2022 FOCUS FEATURES LLC.

Michael Ausiello may not be a recognizable TV star like Jim Parsons, who plays him in the just-released film Spoiler Alert¸ but he is a star among entertainment journalists. Ausiello created and is the Editor-in-Chief of the TV-centered website TVLine, one of the internet’s highest ranking entertainment sites.

So, when Ausiello was facing a major life crisis—his husband Kit Cowan, a photographer, was diagnosed with a rare form of neuroendocrine cancer, eventually dying on Feb. 5, 2015, he dealt with it the best way he knew how by writing about it on Facebook. His posts eventually led to the bestselling memoir, Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Other Four-Letter Words, on which the movie is based.

“The book was not my idea,” Ausiello tells in this one-on-one interview. “An editor at Simon & Schuster approached me shortly after Kit died because he had read some of the Facebook passages that I had shared with friends and family during Kit’s cancer journey. And he was moved by them and thought that there might be a book. He planted the initial seed that got the ball rolling for all of it.”

Ausiello was reluctant at first because he felt that it would be difficult to dive back into certain parts of the story, but then he realized it was an opportunity for the world to get the chance to meet Kit, so he couldn’t pass it up.

“The concern for me was would I be able to do him justice?” Ausiello says, and he was just as reluctant when Parsons approached him with the idea of turning the book into a movie.

“I was scared of again not doing right by Kit, our relationship, and by this story,” Ausiello continues. “Filmmaking is a collaborative experience where I had to give up some control. Writing the book, I had total control. Even though I was giving up control to people I have enormous respect for, still it’s a scary idea because ultimately you don’t know what you’re going to end up with. But I felt like, again the opportunity to expose the story and introduce Kit to so many more people, it was worth the risk.”

Obviously, Ausiello eventually agreed to the film, knowing that Parsons, who he had interviewed many times during the run of The Big Bang Theory on CBS was going to play him, but there was still concern about the actor who would play Kit—and then Ben Aldridge was cast.

“Ben really surprised me. I knew Ben looked like Kit, but until we started shooting it’s always hard to know if he’d be able to capture his essence. And he really did, and he did so beautifully. I’ve heard from many people who were very close to Kit who have seen the movie now and they were blown away by how Kit-like Ben was.”

And it wasn’t just Aldridge that got it right. Ausiello was on the set during filming, and he says that some of the scenes were eerily accurate and close to the actual experience. One example was a scene at the beach in Ocean City, New Jersey, which almost shot for shot, frame for frame is exactly as it took place because Ausiello had video of the moment.

“[Director] Michael Showalter saw that video and he’s like, ‘Let’s just do exactly that.’ And he did exactly that. And Ben, more than in any other scene, was so Kit-like in that moment. And you see that a little bit because we see a little bit of the video at the end [of the movie].”

During our interview, Ausiello also talked about the coup casting of Sally Field as Kit’s mother, the unintentional messages in the movie, his love of all things Smurf, and more.
Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features

The fact that you landed Sally Field for the movie is a real standout. How was that process? And what’s it like to have an Academy Award winner in a movie about your life?

Two-time Academy Award winner. The process was shockingly simple because Michael Showalter had worked with Sally before on My Name is Doris, but also our co-screenwriter David Marshall Grant worked with her on Brothers & Sisters. So, she had two connections to this project which made it much easier I think to get the ball rolling.

Still, I refused to allow myself to get invested in the idea of Sally Field because I didn’t want my heart to get broken. It just seemed too good to be true. But when it finally happened, it felt like an out-of-body experience. It felt like, “This isn’t real, this can’t be happening.” I admire her so much, I’m such a huge fan, and to be on this journey with her is just a dream come true.

Spoiler Alert is a romantic gay drama, but it’s also a story that encourages people to take risks to live their best life. Is that one of the messages that you were trying to get out to people that it’s worth it to take the risk?

I had no messages. I had no ulterior motives in writing the book or even in being a part of this movie. I just wanted to tell this story as authentically as possible. If people get something out of it, if they walk away with a message, that’s great.

Because, it also has a second message. That moment where you first take Kit to your home and he opens the bedroom door and sees your huge collection of Smurfs, that seems to be about people learning to accept people for all their foibles. You seriously don’t see that as part of the message?

Well, no. So, here’s the thing, I absolutely see that as part of the message, but that was not my intent though in getting that message out there. But absolutely, I can see that. There are moments where it’s about compromise, it’s about showing your authentic self to someone, and how scary and vulnerable that is and will they accept you? It’s all of those things.
Credit: Giovanni Rufino/© 2022 FOCUS FEATURES LLC

Where are all your Smurfs now?

They’re in storage here in New York, being watched. Yeah, watched 24/7 by security, so don’t get any ideas, Paulette.

When you started covering entertainment, a movie like Spoiler Alert couldn’t have been made. How do you see that the industry has changed now so that projects like this can be made?

I think it’s all the gay movies that came before clearing the way, and I’m so grateful for that. It’s been a step-by-step process, progress has gone slowly, but there has been progress. And I’m grateful to be living in this time when there are so many different diverse gay stories, LGBTQ stories out there.

Do you have another book in you? Is there a continuation of maybe life after?

I think there might be a book in me. I don’t know if it’s life after, maybe it’s life before. It’s something I’m thinking about now, but I also don’t want to feel pressure to do another book. I want to wait and feel inspired, like I felt inspired to write this story. I never felt like I had to, or was pressured into writing it, I had to write it. I wanted to write it and I was inspired to write it. If I get that feeling again, I’ll do it.

Spoiler Alert is in select theaters now and nationwide on Friday, December 9

Next, The 14 Best Gay/LGBTQ Movies on Netflix Right Now

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