Cheesesteak King Tony Luke Jr. Is Trying to Make a Gay Movie

The local entrepreneur is shopping around a film script that takes a hard but humorous look at Philly's Mummers culture and its acceptance of homosexuality.

Tony Luke in 2009's The Nail: The Story of Joey Nardone.

Is there anything Tony Luke Jr. hasn’t done? The South Philly-bred entrepreneur’s credits range from acting in movies and winning kickboxing tournaments to famously creating an international, eponymous cheesesteak chain. But just when you think the go-getter has dipped his hand in every Cheez Whiz can imaginable, he announces he’s venturing into new territory yet again: making a gay movie! Or at least he wants to make a gay movie.

Luke is currently in the process of raising funds for Queens for a Day, a comedy that takes a hard but humorous look at Philly’s Mummer’s culture through the eyes of a gay man and his drag queen boyfriend. Luke says he was approached by Baltimore playwright Bernie DeLeo to produce the film, and when he read it he knew it was something he wanted to be part of. “It just touched me,” he says. “It was the first time I’ve ever read a script where I laughed like crazy and cried like a baby at the same time.”

The premise concerns a homophobic Mummers Fancy Brigade captain who learns he’s dying of leukemia. His one wish in life is to win the Mummers Parade, so it falls on his son — a son he disowned for being gay — to take over with the help of his partner, a flamboyant drag queen. I don’t want to give too much away, but Luke promises hilarious scenes where typical South Philly bros attempt to work a runway in heels, and some in-your-face ones that generate honest dialog about one of Philly’s more macho cultures and its slowly improving opinion of homosexuality. “When you can make a movie that makes people laugh and still gets your point across in a positive manner, it’s a very powerful tool. If nothing you can’t walk away from this movie without … engaging in talks.”

Luke says the production crew is in place and he’s even cast a few of the roles. Local actor Leo Rossi, who starred in Luke’s previous film, The Nail: The Story of Joey Nardone, will play the role of the father, and Luke will step in as the father’s best friend. But would you believe he considered playing the drag queen? “I thought about it,” he says,” But I’m too big and bulky, and to be honest, I don’t think I’d be beautiful in a wig.”

So when can we expect to see this on the big screen? “In the perfect world, we would be filming in November,” says Luke. But first it’s all about shopping the script around to local investors who want to get behind its production. A contender for next year’s QFest, perhaps? Stay tuned to G Philly for updates.

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