Dito Montiel directed Robin Williams in his final film, Boulevard, which explores with nuance what happens when a gay man in his twilight years finally decides there’s no other choice but to come out.

Dito Montiel On ‘Boulevard’

In Boulevard, Williams’ character Nolan is married – if not happily – to his soulmate Joy (Kathy Baker). Together they’ve built a satisfactory – if not outstanding – life together that’s comprised of dinner parties and movie nights. One night, however, a literal U-turn steers him into the path of Leo (Roberto Aguire), a young hooker. Nolan’s complicated relationship with Leo delivers him to a newfound resolution about his sexuality.

Montiel’s approach to Boulevard was to avoid treating it as a coming out story, keeping in mind that Nolan was in many ways past his prime. Furthermore, Montiel – as well as Williams – didn’t want to ignore the very real relationship that Nolan had developed and nurtured with his wife over the decades.

“Because of his age and the 40 years he spent with Kathy Baker’s character Joy, for me it was much more a story of letting go of the love of your life,” Montiel explained to uInterview in an exclusive interview. “Originally, we had an ending where [Nolan] goes to a bar, and all is great. And then me and [Robin] were talking about it, and he was like, ‘What about Joy?’ […] This is not just a straightforward film about the evil wife that you’re leaving because of the life that you should be living.”

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Part of the reason why Montiel was attracted to directing Boulevard was the phenomenon of someone deciding to change course so late in life – a phenomenon he’d experienced secondhand in his own life.

“My parents were married for fortysomething years and my mother decided to divorce my father when they were 70,” Montiel said. “Me and my sisters, we have a lot of family who were like ‘What are you gonna do now?’ And [my mom] was like, ‘Well, I’m not done yet.’ Strangely, that sort of stuck in my head. I just thought about the complications of trying to make a change at that age.”

While some viewers and critics have insisted that Boulevard‘s point of view is wrapped up in its tagline – “If life is moving in the wrong direction, there’s always time to make a U-turn” – Montiel isn’t so sure. He sees Nolan’s situation as a bit more complicated, one with more moving parts and less certainty.

“I think with my parents, me and my sisters would sometimes joke that maybe mom and dad would have been happier if they just stayed miserable with each other,” Montiel explained. “I don’t know what happens at the end of [Boulevard]. It’s probably a good thing to live your life, but like I said, it’s a little more complicated, I always thought, because of the age of the characters.”

In agreement about the complicated realities of Nolan’s situation was Williams. Working with Williams, for Montiel, went from one surreal experience to another. At one point, he was in such a state of disbelief that he was working with the legend, and at another, he was taking 1 a.m. strolls down the streets of Nashville with him, two men picking each other’s creative brains.

“A guy like him, everybody grew up with a different version of him – or a few. You start off like a fan and you kind of like save all of your voice messages from him because you can believe it’s him, you know? And then you start talking about the film,” Montiel said. “I know it’s corny, and directors are all supposed to talk about how great their actors are, but I’m pretty honest. I really did love him.”

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“He obsesses the way I do about character, and you think a guy who’s done as much as he’s done… It’s hard to imagine that he’d care that much,” Montiel added. “We were shooting in Nashville, and movies are like circus life; you’re attached at the hip for a few months, and then you all go your own way. But for those few months, you talk every day. We were on the streets a lot, and getting lunch at one in the morning. He’d say, ‘Let’s take a walk, we’ve got to talk about the next scene,’ and I’d walk through Nashville at one in the morning talking through a scene with him.”

Since wrapping Boulevard, Montiel started work on his next upcoming film,the post-apocalyptic drama Man Down with Shia LaBeouf, Gary Oldman and Kate Mara. Missing from the all-star roster is Montiel’s frequent collaborator Channing Tatum, whose new film Magic Mike will still be in theaters when Boulevard releases this weekend.

“You know, I love Channing. I love that we’re going up against Magic Mike! I’m kind of not thinking we’re going to win this one,” said a self-deprecating Montiel, who added he’d love to work again with the actor who starred in his first three films.

Boulevard hits theaters July 17. It will be available on DVD Aug. 31.