Boys Don't Cryis a 1999 American independent romantic drama film directed by Kimberly Peirce and co-written by Andy Bienen. The film is a dramatization of the real-life story of Brandon Teena , a transgender man played by Hilary Swank , who pursues a relationship with a young woman, played by Chloë Sevigny , and is beaten, raped and murdered by his male acquaintances after they discover he is anatomically female. The picture explores the themes of freedom, courage, identity and empowerment. The film was distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures and was released theatrically in October 1999.
After reading about the murder of Brandon Teena while in college, Peirce intently researched the case—as well as Teena's life—and worked on a screenplay for the film for almost five years.All She Wanted, the 1993 book about the case written by Aphrodite Jones, inspired Peirce, but she chose to focus the story on the relationship between Teena and his girlfriend Lana Tisdel. Many actors campaigned for the lead over the course of three years; the then unknown Swank was cast because her personality seemed similar to Teena's. The film also stars Chloë Sevigny , Peter Sarsgaard , Brendan Sexton III , Alicia Goranson , Jeanetta Arnette , and Matt McGrath . The majority of characters were based on real-life people, while some were composites . Shooting lasted from October until November 1998 and filming took place in various locations throughout Texas .
Boys Don't Crypremiered at the New York Film Festival on October 8, 1999 to overwhelmingly positive acclaim from critics. Praise was generally focused on the two lead performances by Swank and Sevigny. The film received a limited nationwide release on October 22, 1999, and performed moderately well at the North American box office. At the 72nd Academy Awards in 2000, Swank was awarded an Oscar for Best Actress , while Sevigny was nominated for Best Supporting Actress . The film has been cited as one of the most controversial and talked-about films of 1999, initially being assigned an NC-17 rating, later modified to an R rating . The release of the film was concurrent with the murder of a young gay man, Matthew Shepard , which sparked additional public interest.The film was named after the song of the same name by The Cure , and a cover version of the song appears in the film.
Brandon Teena ( Hilary Swank ) is a young female-to-male non-operative transgender man, whose birth name was Teena Renae Brandon. When Brandon is discovered to be anatomically female by the brother of a woman he once dated, he becomes the target of physical threats. Not long after, he is involved in a bar fight and is evicted from his cousin's trailer. Brandon moves to Falls City, Nebraska where he cultivates friendships with ex-convicts John Lotter ( Peter Sarsgaard ) and Tom Nissen ( Brendan Sexton III ), and their friends Candace ( Alicia Goranson ) and Lana Tisdel ( Chloë Sevigny ). Brandon becomes romantically involved with Lana, who is unaware of his biological sex and troubled past. The two make plans to move to Memphis , where Brandon will manage Lana in a karaoke career.
Brandon is detained for charges that arose prior to his relocation and placed in the women’s section of the Falls City prison. Lana bails Brandon out. After Lana asks why Brandon was in a woman’s prison, Brandon lies to her, saying he was born a hermaphrodite and will soon receive a sex change . Lana declares her love for Brandon, "no matter what (s)he is." Tom and John become suspicious after they read a newspaper article about Brandon that refers to him by his birth name, Teena Brandon. Tom and John force Brandon to remove his pants, revealing his genitalia. They try to make Lana look, but she shields her eyes and turns away. After this confrontation Tom and John chase Brandon to an isolated location, where they beat and rape him. Afterward, they take Brandon to Nissen's house. Though injured, Brandon escapes through a bathroom window. Having been threatened by his assailants and told not to report the attack to the police, a distressed Brandon is nonetheless convinced by Lana to file a report.
One evening, John and Tom get drunk, and decide to kill Brandon. Despite Lana's attempts to stop them, John and Tom drive to Candace's remote house where they find Brandon, who has been hiding in a shed on Candace's property. John shoots Brandon under the chin, and Tom shoots Candace in the head while Lana fights them and screams for them to stop. John stabs Brandon's lifeless body and Tom attempts to shoot Lana, but is stopped by John. John and Tom flee the scene, while Lana lies with Brandon's dead body.
The next morning, Lana wakes up on Brandon's dead body. Her mother arrives and takes an emotionally wrenched Lana away from the scene. The film ends with Lana leaving Falls City while a letter Brandon wrote her is read in a voice-over.