When Dan Bucatinsky wrote the original version of what has become “All Over the Guy” for the stage, it was a simple, two-character piece about a man and a woman who struggle their way toward a relationship. In reshaping the piece for the screen, however, Bucatinsky not only fleshed out characters–parents and a couple of best friends in particular–who appeared in the play only as disembodied voices, but turned the romance from a heterosexual to a homosexual one. In the film, the on-again, off-again relationship is between the fussy Eli (Bucatinsky) and the hunkier, but troubled Tom (Richard Russolo).

“I was approached about changing the [female] character into a man,” Bucatinsky explained during a visit to Dallas-Fort Worth for a screening of the picture at Q Cinema, the Fort Worth gay and lesbian film festival. “And when you make an independent movie like this, and your budget is as low as it is, the more you can guarantee an audience, a certain kind of demographic that will, in a very loyal way, turn out for your film–and the gay audience does that, in a way that you can’t guarantee in a straight audience–[that’s important]. That was part of it.”

But the writer said there was another reason behind the change, too. “A film version of the play would have seemed like ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ like a lot of films we’ve already seen,” he explained. And changing the gender of one of the two characters turned out to be less of a alteration than it might appear. “The relationship was almost identical,” Bucatinsky said. “The part of Tom was a character named Susan in the play. When I first started adapting it, the first thing I did–just to make certain I had gotten some pages written–was to take the play, put it into a new document [on the computer], search for the name ‘Susan’ and replace it with the name ‘Tom.’ And I saw how much of the play remained true. I didn’t set out to tell a gay story, I didn’t set out to make a gay film, and hopefully that’s not what we’ve made. We’ve made a movie about a relationship whose main characters happen to be both men, but the same story is told in the original play. And a lot of the scenes were lifted verbatim. It proved my point about how universal the issues are. It’s really a movie about how similar people are, as opposed to the differences.”

Richard Ruccolo, who plays Tom in the film and joined Bucatinsky in Fort Worth for the screening, agreed with his co-star’s assessment. “[The script] was really refreshing to read,” he said. “To know you’re going to go in and read for a gay character–for an actor that can be kind of threatening. It’s territory where actors, gay or straight, are really careful about what they choose to do. This was something that, as you kept reading it, wasn’t about any of that stuff–it wasn’t stereotyped or cliched…. When I was going in to read with Dan, I was going in no way, shape or form to put any affectation on of being gay, or what most people perceive as gay…. I went in there and read it as if this were a straight character,…as if I was on a date with a woman or in a fight with my girlfriend. And it was exactly what [Dan] was looking for.”

Ruccolo, who is probably best-known for his role as a neurotically rigid student in the ABC comedy series “Two Guys and a Girl,” leapt at the part as a chance to do something different. “I couldn’t even find one similarity between the character in this movie and the character I was playing on TV. Talk about a complete antithesis–it was just 180 degrees to play this kind of tainted, alcoholic guy who could never, ever settle down in a million years.” But, he admitted, it was also difficult: “[Doing] sitcoms, after you get the hang of it, is just a cakewalk. You have the character nailed down, you know exactly who he is, you work five hours a week, you get a regular check–it’s the cushiest job in Hollywood. It’s the least amount of work for a really good paycheck.” By contrast, work on “Guy” required long hours, experimentation and a risk-taking attitude. Still, “it was something that I thought was really important to do,” Ruccolo said.

“All Over the Guy” is being released by Lions Gate Films across the country in August.