Jim Parsons on coming to 'Terms' with 'Spoiler Alert' (and going full Shirley MacLaine in hospital) – USA TODAY

Growing up outside Houston, Jim Parsons loved watching (and rewatching) the 1983 weeper “Terms of Endearment.”
“It’s truly one of my favorite movies ever; I’ve watched it many times,” Parsons says of the best picture-winning drama about a woman (Debra Winger) contending with terminal cancer, her husband (Jeff Daniels) and her devoted, Houston-based mother (Oscar-winner Shirley MacLaine).
But now Parsons, 49, is generating the drama – and the tears – producing and starring in “Spoiler Alert,” which follows the full emotional trek of journalist Michael Ausiello and his husband Kit, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. But this time it’s a gay couple at the center of the story in the film, expanding nationwide in theaters Friday.
“We’ve seen these journeys in movies that deeply affected me as a young person, always around a straight couple,” says Parsons. “I didn’t realize how deeply I wanted to be part of telling a story like this.”
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The four-time Emmy-winning star of CBS’ hit sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” who came out in 2012, can thank his husband and production partner Todd Spiewak for the initial push to make the movie. Spiewak watched Parsons tearfully read Ausiello’s 2017 memoir “Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Other Four Letter Words.”
“He had watched me read it and said, ‘You sobbed your way through that, might it make a good movie?’ ” Parsons says, admitting he was still undecided. “And then he read it and sobbed all the way through. And it was like, ‘OK, we’re doing it.’ “
Spiewak suggested that Parsons play the outgoing, dance-loving Kit, which is closer to his actual personality. Yes, the actor best known as physicist Sheldon Cooper will disprove any theories you might have on his gravitational moves: “Not that I go to clubs much anymore. They’re just a sweaty mess. But I dance around the house a lot,” says Parsons. “I don’t edit myself as a dancer, and enjoy full range of motion with my limbs.”
But Parsons fell for the full story arc of the Sheldon-adjacent Michael, who dances awkwardly during his nightclub meeting with his future husband, Kit, played by British actor Ben Aldridge. “Spoiler Alert” features clever conversation and depicts real love, but doesn’t avoid some un-Hollywood truths in the screen couple’s life – such as their separation at the time of Kit’s diagnosis.
“That’s what made the story so powerful; nothing was glossed over,” says Parsons of Ausiello’s memoir. “It was Michael’s willingness to give you a brutal truth, not just about cancer and loss, but about the day-to-day living in a long-term relationship.” 
With this honest depiction, Parsons feels confident that “Spoiler Alert” can find an audience. He is undaunted by the October theatrical flop of LGBTQ rom-com “Bros.”
“Our movies are really apples to oranges. There’s a big similarity in that you have a central gay couple. But being in this industry, I can’t be confident saying that success or failure for either movie is not about sexuality. There are a million other reasons,” says Parsons. “But I don’t believe that playing gay characters, in any way, alienates someone who’s not gay from being able to go on this humane journey and empathize with these characters’ situations.”
Parsons felt this empathy shooting powerful hospital scenes as Kit’s health fails. He walked over to Ausiello, a constant presence on set, for a spontaneous hug.
“I don’t remember what I said, or if I said anything,” says Parsons. “It was just very moving. I was, and am, so grateful to be let into somebody’s story and heart like this.”
Along with those emotion-packed scenes, “Spoiler Alert” features more “Terms of Endearment” similarities, with another iconic actress, Sally Field, playing Kit’s loving mother, who buries her pain over his condition in long runs.
“It was so great to jog with Sally Field; I had to pinch myself,” says Parsons. “We were so deep into a field and I was alone with Sally Field. I was like, we could just keep going and going.”
Parsons threw down for a callback scene that paid homage to MacLaine’s famous “Terms” hospital scene, in which she demanded pain medication for her daughter. In the memoir, Ausiello writes about a tense discussion with hospital staff over getting Kit a bed in the crowded hospital.
“In the book, Michael writes that he was afraid that he was going to have to ‘go all Shirley MacLaine on their asses.’   He actually didn’t do it,” says Parsons, who decided to add a direct homage to the real MacLaine. “I was like ‘Oh, we’re doing that. We’re going all Shirley MacLaine on their asses.”
Parsons studied up on the scene, typing MacLaine’s famous line “Give my daughter the shot” into YouTube. Once again, he enjoyed repeat “Terms” viewing.
Parsons was pleased with the final result. “I would never say I could surpass Shirley MacLaine. But I’m thinking she won’t hate it. At least I’m hoping not.”


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