MORGAN is a love story about rediscovering what’s really important in life. Morgan Oliver has recently become a paraplegic following a horrific bicycle racing accident. Formerly an accomplished athlete, his frustration at his newly imposed immobility leads him to sit around, drink beer, and mope. His supportive mother and best girlfriend Lane are irritated by his fits of anger and self-pity. One day when he’s wheeling past a basketball court, he meets Dean—a James Dean look-a-like from Brooklyn—shooting hoops. Taken with Dean’s good looks and gentle demeanor, Morgan becomes determined to get his life back on track despite his disability. The two become lovers, and Dean supports Morgan when he starts training for a wheelchair race on the same course where he had his accident. But when Morgan disregards his loved ones’ fears and risks his life to win, Dean can no longer help him. MORGAN is a powerful story about risk-taking, selflessness, and love.
“…Michael Akers’s fascinating, quietly powerful film follows Oliver in his new life in a wheelchair. And then comes love. Akers’s film is in many ways a traditional love story, told with a refreshing twist: A handsome, hunky gay man falls in love with another, who just happens to be wheelchair-bound. Jack Kesy plays the able-bodied Dean Kagen, who pursues a relationship with Oliver, played by Leo Minaya.
The two bond over basketball, as well as their respective movie-star good looks: Kesy looks a bit like James Dean, while Minaya resembles Gyllenhaal. The two actors have a nice chemistry and sexual heat, and they portray the budding romance with just the right amount of initial awkwardness and eventual passion. Kagen is a natural caregiver, and seems in every way perfect for Oliver, far less troubled by Oliver’s handicapped body than Oliver is.
Oliver still has the drive of a competitive athlete, and he ends up pushing himself and his relationship a bit too hard, leading to a lot more struggle and soul-searching. Fortunately, Akers’s film has a lightness of being, never getting bogged down in too many details.
You’re never too concerned that Oliver won’t eventually figure the right course to take.” (Metroweekly)
Next up is the feature Morgan, and I thoroughly enjoyed this moving story of a recently disabled cyclist who falls in love with another man he meets on the basketball court.
Leo Minaya stars as Morgan, and the actor gives a winning performance as an athlete who has a hard time accepting that he is now wheelchair bound. When he falls for the equally attractive and athletic Dean, Morgan runs into trouble trying to balance love with his dream to return to racing.
Although the story is straightforward, the filmmakers are to be applauded for giving us a hero who is complex – Morgan is more than a little obsessive and has a self-destructive streak to boot.
Kudos to SIGLFF for showing this film, which features a poignant depiction of romance (and sex) between a disabled person and a non-disabled person. Don’t let the subject matter scare you away, Morgan is surprisingly entertaining. (Outword Magazine)
For Morgan (Leo Minaya, How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer) winning is everything. But sometimes we make bad decisions and need to live with the consequences. During the epic New York Haven bike race, Morgan suffers a catastrophic accident that leaves him paralyzed from the waist down. Even after his external wounds heal, things are really looking bleak. He has lost his job, the physical ability to race, and, unbelievably, his boyfriend left him during recovery. Left lonely and struggling with the fact that there are some things he can’t physically do anymore, Morgan must learn to take care of himself, struggling with the most ordinary day-to-day tasks to recover his sense of personal worth.
Soon Morgan meets and begins dating Dean Kagen (film newcomer Jack Kesy), a real estate agent who is trying to find himself after taking care of his sick mother. As Dean and Morgan learn about each other and begin to deepen their relationship, they also begin to open up about their true feelings and face their own personal fears, attempting to heal the wounds of their past. Under Dean’s influence and encouragement, Morgan finds new inspiration to pull his life back together. He buys a new set of “wheels” and enters the handicapped division of the New York Haven bike race. With Dean’s help, Morgan begins serious training, but now he must confront his own limitations and learn that sometimes personal best is already a true victory.
Morgan, lovingly and sensitively directed by Michael Akers (ImageOut 2003 official selection Gone, But Not Forgotten), is a heartwarming testimony of the strength of the enduring human spirit. (Brad Craddock, ImageOut)
MAKING OF MORGAN (note di regia)
In 2004, before we even made our 3rd film, Phoenix, Michael and I began talking about MORGAN. With each story Michael and I ask ourselves why it must be told, what sets it apart, and what makes it relevant, not just to a gay audience, but to any audience? Back then we called the concept ““Hot Wheelz”.” I began interviewing gay men in wheelchairs. Through a Web site specifically for paraplegic and quadriplegic gay men, I found a beautiful young man named Robbie S. He had been a tennis player. I had several long, candid conversations with him: how did he become paraplegic, what did it take to survive, what was rehabilitation like, what was the moment like when he realized he would never walk again, what can he still do and what can’t he do, how does he go to the bathroom, how does he have sex? He was open to all my questions and generous in all of his answers.
Michael and I began crafting the story. Then we got scared. Would anyone want to see a movie like this? We put everything we have into our movies, we risk everything. Is there a place in the world for this film? I got emails from Robbie, “How’s the script coming? When will you start shooting?” I told him I was having second thoughts. He told me how important he thought the film was and how important it was to him. “You’re giving voice to a bunch of us that nobody makes movies for.” But I couldn’t do it. We made Phoenix. It did well, but I couldn’t stop thinking about ““Hot Wheelz,” or about Robbie.
We picked up the story again and began fleshing it out. Finally it clicked: the relevance of “Hot Wheelz.” It is a story about a young athlete who must discover himself again after a bicycle accident leaves him in a wheelchair. We were writing the scene at the end of the movie between Morgan and his mother and Peg just said it, “You just have to find that part of yourself again.” We looked at the words on the page. There is was. We all have something in our lives: loss of a loved one, divorce, unemployment, an accident, something that takes away a piece of ourselves so we feel like we don’t know ourselves anymore and we have to rebuild. That’s the relevance of MORGAN. We were moving ahead again.
We had a reading. I knew I needed to find the right actors and team to make this happen. It’s a funny thing about making a movie. You could attach a different set of people to the same script and it would turn out a different film. The first person we found was Leo Minaya. You might remember him from the Sundance sensation Manito, for which he won the Ensemble Acting award. He also starred as America Ferarra’s love interest in the Sundance film How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer. Then we found Jack Kesy. Jack has some great training under his belt, but not a lot of experience. Michael and I love discovering people. Ever heard of Matthew Montgomery? We gave him his first role in our first film Gone, But Not Forgotten and look how that turned out. Jack is a very natural actor. He never pushes anything. He just is. The only problem was, we weren’t sure who would be in what role.
We spent an afternoon with them. We’d bought an old wheelchair and they both got in, rolled around and we read all of their scenes. “I need to see you kiss,” I told them. I had talked to each of them on the phone about this beforehand. It’s something I require of any actors playing love interests because (a) I want to see their chemistry and (b) I want to make sure they’re capable of onscreen intimacy before I’ve started shooting the film. I don’t need anyone freaking out. Well, they kissed and their chemistry electrified the room. Not bad for a couple of straight dudes. After that, it was clear: Leo should play the title role and Jack should be the love interest. We didn’t tell them yet. They left. I said to Michael, “Do you think that’s the first time that either one of them has kissed a guy?” I never asked and I never will.
Our dear friend Scott Gofta met Darra “Like Dat” Boyd on set. I’m sure you remember being introduced to Darra on VH1’s hit show Flavor of Love Season 2 & Flavor of Love Girls Charm School Hosted by Mo’Nique. She read for Lane and she was great.
We interviewed a number of women to play Peg. She is a very strong woman, but there is a vulnerability to her that makes for a very interesting dichotomy. Finally Madalyn McKay answered a casting call. Madalyn has a deep-rooted energy that could pull the scenery off the walls if it’s not contained. I couldn’t wait for Michael to start working with that.
I called everyone and offered them the roles. They all jumped at the chance. They all have delicious roles and they would get to work with an experienced actor’s director like Michael. Interestingly, each of them was in transition: Leo had not worked since 2006 and Jack had never done anything, so both of them were trying to get their careers going. Darra was a reality show star, but really needed to prove her acting chops. Madalyn had done a number of commercials and a horror film and really needed to add a role like this to her resume. That magic that happens for a perfect storm began to brew. I knew I had the right cast for Michael to guide, to mold, to reach inside and pull out of each of them something that they would all fight (they always fight), something they didn’t know was there. Michael has a way of pushing people until they finally do something they didn’t know they were capable of. He’s like the Olympic coach of Directing. I knew the actors would all, at some point hate him, but in the end he would make sure that they deliver a performance that no other director could get out of them. Nothing about making movies is easy. I knew it was going to be a rocky, risky road to make this film. But rocky risky is my favorite flavor of fun. It is my pleasure to present to you my beautiful cast, an important and touching film, and last but not least, my partner in art, life, love and all other things that matter, Michael Akers. And yes, Robbie, I finally made happen. I give you MORGAN. (unitedgaynetwork.com)