The Making of Trophy Boy

The Rise and Fall of a Male Hustler

Emrhys Cooper, writer, director, and star of Trophy Boy

BY: Andy Shoulders

Trophy Boy, a new film directed by and starring Emrhys Cooper, follows James Heathcote (Cooper), a handsome young Instagram celebrity whose world is turned upside down when his sugar daddy cuts him off and kicks him out. James is forced to confront his true identity, showing the audience that Insta-fame can be a fleeting mistress. Following its debut at the Cannes Film Festival (a rarity for first-time outings), the film has already garnered a lot of buzz. I had the opportunity to talk with Cooper about his experience with the film, as well as the impacts of social media fame.

What was your inspiration to make Trophy Boy?
I first got the idea to make Trophy Boy about five years ago while sipping a cocktail in Palm Springs. I saw what looked like an older man walking down the street with a much younger man on his arm, and it was pretty obvious what that situation was. I also had a friend at the time who said he didn’t want to hang out with me and my friends because he didn’t feel like he could keep up with us simply because we had a large amount of followers on social media. It made me sad to think that he felt we were always having the perfect day while he sat at home looking at all these images. It became clear to me that social media really can become a source of depression. It made me want to explore the duality of who we portray ourselves to be versus who we really are. There has to be a balance. For example, I’m not exactly going to post about not paying my phone bill, but I’m not going to lie and hide the fact that I’m having a shitty day.

Walk me through the gist of the film.
I play a character named James Heathcote, a so-called “social influencer,” and at the beginning of the film we see his flashy and fabulous life. It’s quickly revealed that he has a sugar daddy who dumps him, and basically James is back to square one. He’s left wondering “what do I do now,” and I think anyone who’s been dumped or hates their job has had a “what next” thought at one point or another. I also think it’s a lot like a boy becoming a man for James. He’s been enabled by this guy, and he’s been led to believe in his own curated profile. He’s not a fully developed human being, and I think a lot of people tend to fall prey to believing their own press.

So James has to completely start over and get back to his true self it seems.
James is knocked back to reality, and in the space of less than 24 hours, he alienates everyone, and he hits rock bottom. He looks at himself in the mirror, and he realizes that everything he’s been portraying, everything he’s been saying, everything he’s been presenting himself to be…it’s simply not really him. He has to find for himself who he really is.

You mentioned the whole thing takes place in less than a day.  That’s gotta be tough on James, or anyone for that matter.
It starts almost the minute James is dumped, and follows him until the next morning. He doesn’t sleep at all. He goes out and tries to meet a new sugar daddy, and it goes horribly wrong. Then come the drugs, and he alienates anyone and everyone who tries to help him. They aren’t some of James’s best hours, but in a way I think a lot of people have been there.

Have you found at screenings that a lot of people indentify with James?
Absolutely.  What’s been so great about audience reactions so far has been when people have said that they’ve been on both sides of the coin. For instance, James’s best friend in the film tries to help him, but James refuses to see it. So it’s been interesting to hear from people that when they’re feeling down they tend to attack, but on the other hand, as a friend, they know when to walk away. I hope as more people watch it, they’ll take a look at their own lives, their own use of social media, and ask what’s really right for them. A lot of us allow ourselves to be unhappy because we think we should always have more. This is exactly what happens with James. So I guess we’ll see whether he gets another job or hops right back on the gravy train.

So there’s more to the story coming?
Oh yes. Down the pipeline we have James finding and making much deeper relationships. It will be interesting to see someone who has relied so heavily on his looks and presence form the relationships that he does. He has a big journey ahead of him, and he has a lot of revelations about what will make him happy. Not money and fame, but real connections.

Watch the trailer for Trophy Boy, and keep up with the film at trophyboyfilm.com. And be sure to throw out some likes along the way. Every trophy boy loves that.