Out and Interfaith: Love is Strange’s Ira Sachs Tells His Story

By Gerri Miller

August 21, 2014


Cast of Love is Strange
Alfred Molina, John Lithgow and Ira Sachs. Credit: Clay Enos/Sony Pictures Classics

The movie Love is Strange stars John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a loving, longtime gay couple, finally married after 39 years together, but forced by circumstances to separate. It’s an affecting, beautifully acted story about what happens when one of them loses his job and they lose their apartment and must seek shelter with family and friends.

Directed by Ira Sachs from a screenplay he wrote with Mauricio Zacharias, it was inspired by Sachs’ Jewish mother and step-father’s 45-year marriage and the relationship between his Jewish great uncle and his partner, who wasn’t Jewish. The basis for Lithgow’s character, the latter “was a sculptor, a very passionate figure,” says Sachs, who is in an interfaith relationship of his own.

After being together for five years, he married his partner Boris Torres, who is not Jewish, “six months after it became legal in New York State and a week before we had twins. I say that we had a gay shotgun wedding,” Sachs says. They’d met several times through friends and online before they were at the right point for a relationship, “a point where we both liked ourselves.”

Faith has never come between them, and Torres is on board for the pair’s 2½-year-old twins to become b’nai mitzvah. (Their birth mother is Seventh Day Adventist.) “Right now we’re teaching them language and how to use the potty. But I am checking out synagogues,” says Sachs, who grew up attending synagogue and was president of his temple youth group in Memphis, Tennessee.

As an established member of the Jewish community there—his grandmother’s family arrived in the 1850s, and his father’s family came in the early 1900s—he “felt no vulnerability as a Jew.” But he did experience anti-Semitism at the “very traditional old Southern white prep school” he attended in the ’70s. “I was called ‘kike’ and had pennies thrown at me. The violence scared me but the anti-Semitism seemed ridiculous.”

Today, Sachs considers himself a secular Jew. “I know that that comes out of assimilation and I’m intellectually sad to not be more knowledgeable about Judaism,” he says, though he finds Judaism “less exclusionary” than some other religions, “a welcoming fold.”

Nevertheless, to him, “art and storytelling have been a religion,” and his latest creation, Love is Strange, is “a very personal film. It’s about intimacy, relationships, family. For the first time, I feel an optimism about love that’s very much connected to the time we live in. It’s a gentler time for me as an individual and it’s something I wanted to share in this film, that sense of what is possible.”

Sachs is currently collaborating with Zacharias on a screenplay about two boys who become best friends and take an oath of silence: “another film about relationships and family.” Love is Strange opens August 22 in L.A. and New York, with a national release to follow.


About Gerri Miller

Gerri Miller writes and reports from Los Angeles about celebrities, entertainment and lifestyle for The Jewish Journal, FromtheGrapevine.com, Brain World, HeathCentral.com, and others. A New York native, she spent a summer working at Kibbutz Giv'at Brenner in Israel and attends High Holy Day services at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood every year.