Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I Know Why Studios Wouldn't Touch This Film

No, I don't read wretched trash like Entertainment Weekly, but someone brought this March 6, 2013 issue with its article about the upcoming HBO movie about Liberace to my attention (this isn't in the online edition, for some reason):
Based on Thorson's 1988 memoir of the same name, Candelabra begins in 1977, when Liberace (or "Lee," as his friends called him) is reigning in Vegas as the world's favorite pianist-comedian-showman.  After a chance encounter, he seduces Thorson, a naive 18-year-old foster kid, into his more-is-more world of private jets and be-thonged houseboys.  The story ends in 1987, the Liberace dies of AIDS, finally confirmed the rumors of his secret life and leaving Thorson--whom he'd dumped five years earlier--with practically nothing but a drug addiction and a surgically altered face remodeled in Lee's own image.

The article goes on to quote the producer that
his movie was dismissed by every major studio as "too gay" before HBO eventually snapped it up.  "None of us could understand [the rejection].  It just seemed baffling to me."
Too gay?  Can a movie be "too gay" today?  Or was it just too honest?  A foster kid.  He's 18.  And he gets dumped at 23 (which means he is starting to look like an adult).  Perhaps if Liberace had been a closeted Republican there would have been interest.

I don't mean that every homosexual is like Liberace.  But Liberace played a stereotype on stage and in private life that used to be widely regarded as just fabulous.  Stereotypes like this don't just get invented.


  1. Liberace actually started going after Thorson when Thorson was only sixteen, under the age of consent in California at the time (although not most other states) and with an extreme age difference along with a lot of additional exceptionally creepy behavior (screwing an effective employee, pressuring someone into plastic surgery with a less-than-ethical doctor). I think you're setting your expectations for the HBO special too high, though : the Candelabra book itself treats the relationship as if it were a lot more healthy than it likely way. Thorson's... got issues, unsurprisingly for a straight guy that went through that. Given that the picked Matt Damon to play a sixteen- to late-twenties-year-old, HBO probably isn't going to play up the predatory aspects to the relationship.

    And movies can still be "too gay" for producers today. Having sanitized and politically acceptable gay characters are necessary, if you want your work to match the times, as it's great as a one-note gag. Male-male sexuality or a gender flip of the male gaze, however, aren't exactly kosher. Even heterosexual focus on male characters, such as the recent Magic Mike movie, get a lot of negative reaction. I can go both ways, and was still pretty uncomfortable watching parts of that film. Actual makeout sessions, such as in the Torchwood series, get it treated as a gay niche thing -- if it doesn't avoid getting an R rating for a kiss. Even films about progressive saints do this : Milk doesn't just play his social radicalism down for the political narrative, it carefully excises a lot of his personal preferences in order to make things less gay and more normal. There are official policies on this sort of thing at the MPAA.

  2. I'm sure a little time in re-write could get that closeted conservative meme into the movie so no one would miss it.

    And as for sterotypes, wasn't it Mike Royko or Jimmy Breslin who wrote that every stereotype has a germ of truth to it, or it couldn't become a stereotype? Jews were able to drive a hard bargain, and the Irish liked a drink or two were the two examples he gave.

    And yes, considering the 40 year age difference there is some serious revisionism going on there casting
    Matt Damon as Scott Thorson where Damon is 12 years older than Thorson was when his book was published. Considering not only the relationship with Liberace was from when Thorson was 16 to age 23, this is deceitful to the max. Add in the furor over the casting for M Butterfly some years back, the age difference is something the gay mafia wants swept under the rug.

  3. LOL. Liberace was a conservative Republican and was less in the closet about that than his sexual orientation. I think you are forgetting the timeline under which Lee achieved his fame. His fans were chiefly blue haired old church ladies who fooled themselves into thinking they had a chance with him. And he played along with the joke.

  4. Blue haired old church ladies in Vegas? It wasn't known as Sin City in those days because it was where "blue haired old church ladies" went to observe sin and evangelize.

    There are certainly many gay Republicans. (Senator Wide Stance, for example.)