Richard Linklater’s 2003 film School of Rock is generally considered a modern classic. The story of the stuffy private school classroom being converted into a rock band has even inspired real “schools of rock” encouraging kids to get into music.
Unfortunately for the actor Brian Falduto, the film also encouraged something else. Falduto played Billy, better known as Fancy Pants, in the film. If you don’t recall the character names, you definitely remember him:
But as Falduto told the Gay Star News, his role opened him up to lots of anti-gay bullying in real life. Falduto said:
I was very quickly labeled “the gay kid from School of Rock” once the movie came out both among peers at the time and on a wide scale. It was a tough thing to be labeled at such a young age because for starters, I really barely knew what being gay really meant.
All I knew about it was from the context I was hearing it in and in the fifth grade, growing up in a fairly conservative area 12 years ago, it definitely had a negative connotation.
Falduto does make sure to mention that Linklater didn’t intend to make fun of the character, or make the actor portray something he’s not. He said: “Richard Linklater did a very good job at directing us children in a way that brought out these inner characters, mine being just an elevated version of my sassy self at the time, without inhibitions.”
Even though Falduto’s character was a heightened version of himself, he didn’t always get his lines. The costume designer had to explain who Liza Minelli, his character’s favorite singer, was.
In his senior year of college, Falduto came out. He said:
This rejection of being gay was embedded in me very early on in a deep area of my brain, but I don’t regret anything. I love that my journey was this because I feel I was meant to have this past with an LGBTQ struggle because now that I’m able to look at everything more clearly, I’m so proud of how full circle I’ve come – I feel I’m now my truest self.
And I love that I was able to be Billy in School of Rock with such unhindered confidence at a young age because I’ve heard such lovely stories from people and how they related to it. If my life had been a breeze after the movie, I don’t think I would value my role in the movie or my role in the LGBTQ community nearly as much as I now do.
We’re glad that the story has a happy ending. And lest you think that Falduto’s career ended with School of Rock, he’s continued his career as an actor and musician. In fact, Falduto has just released his debut EP, Love One Another.