Watch: Triple-Threat Tom Prior is on Fire with Queer-Empowering 'Firebird'

by Frank J. Avella

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday October 11, 2021
Originally published on August 30, 2021

Tom Prior
Tom Prior  

EDGE's Frank Avella talks with hunky actor Tom Prior, who stars in the indie film "Firebird," just prior to the film's premiere at Outfest last month.

The hypnotic new indie gem "Firebird" stars the dashing Prior who happens to have also co-written and produced the film along with director and co-writer Peeter Rebane. 

Set in a Soviet Air Force Base during the late 1970s, "Firebird" is a bold and exciting romance/thriller about the forbidden love between an Estonian private (Prior) and his fighter pilot Lieutenant (Oleg Zagordnii). The two men find themselves navigating uncharted terrain as they fall in love at a time and in a place where homosexual acts were punishable by at least five years in a hard labor prison. The movie is a necessary reminder about the difficulties many LGBTQ+ people still face all around the world, but also a testament to the power of living an authentic life. 

Prior initially came on board the project as an actor but things took a swift turn once he and Rebane bonded and began discussing the film which is based on real-life queer hero, Sergey Fetisov's memoirs. 

Prior's film credits include, "The Theory of Everything," "Kingsman: The Secret Service," "Iceland is Best and "Blood on the Crown." He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and made his West End debut in 2012 in James Graham's "Tory Boys." Prior currently has quite a few projects in the works.

EDGE's Frank Avella enjoyed a Zoom chat with Prior right before the film's debut at OutFest Los Angeles.

Oleg Zagordnii and Tom Prior in "Firebird"
Oleg Zagordnii and Tom Prior in "Firebird"  

Here are a few questions from his conversation that can be seen in its entirety in this video.

EDGE: How true is the film to the actual story?

Tom Prior: It's pretty specific about the nature of the relationship and the intensity of the relationship.

EDGE: Sergei is a queer empowering character. Once he realizes who he is he actually dares to be himself. With human rights violations  going on in so many different places in the world, the film feels so urgent right now. Was that something that was important to you while you were making the film?

Tom Prior: Yeah, absolutely. It's always been very important that the freedom to love who you love no matter who it is has been a theme in my life forever. And to look at the global situation now and, honestly, the backwards type of peddling that's going on in many countries, like in Hungary for's honestly astounding to look at—where even are we? What is going on? In this day and age, with so many other problems?

EDGE:I appreciated how we discovered so many "firsts" with Sergei...the first kiss..You found so many interesting moments that one would never think of as being sensual—like the photo developing scene. Were those things you found during the filmmaking process?

Tom Prior: The photo developing scene was actually inspired by another man that we met who served during the army during that time. And he actually recounted a story where he was developing photos with a comrade and described this eroticism in the closeness of that proximity. 

EDGE: How immersive an actor are you? Can you disengage?

Tom Prior: That's a really interesting question because there were times on set where I almost felt something else overtake me—some sort of connection to the late Sergei...

To hear more from Tom and Frank, watch the video below:

"Firebird" will be the opening night attraction at the Chicago Reeling Film Festival! Screening Live at the Music Box Theatre: Thursday, Sep 23 7:00 pm.

It will also be the opening night feature at Atlanta's Out On Film Festival. Thursday Sep 23rd, 7:00 PM @ Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.

Frank J. Avella is a film and theatre journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He also contributes to Awards Daily and is the GALECA East Coast Rep. Frank is a recipient of a 2019 International Writers Retreat Residency at Arte Studio Ginestrelle (Assisi, Italy), a 2018 Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, a 2016 Helene Wurlitzer Residency Grant and a 2015 NJ State Arts Council Fellowship Award. He is an award-winning screenwriter and playwright (CONSENT, LURED, SCREW THE COW, FIG JAM, VATICAN FALLS) and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild.