Of the “did i dream this?” news variety, Variety announced that Steven Soderbergh is planning to direct a Liberace biopic. What’s more… my worst sexual nightmare, Michael Douglas, will play Liberace and Matt Damon his lover. Seriously.
Watch out Matt, he’s gonna put his hand there:
More seriously though, this is an incredible development: Its another high profile gay biopic in what seems like a considerable string of mainstream gay films in the next few years. Obviously there’s this fall’s Milk… but there’s also next year’s Ang Lee directed Taking Woodstock, which centers on on the life of a Greenwich Village-based interior designer and part-time Catskills hotel manager (to be played by Emile Hirsch) who headed the Bethel, N.Y., Chamber of Commerce. He issued the permit for the legendary 1969 “Woodstock” concert on his neighbor Max Yasgur’s farm.
And just announced last week was yet ANOTHER gay biopic: James Franco playing Allen Ginsberg in the Howl… directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman – documentary filmmakers who won directed Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, The Celluloid Closet and The Times of Harvey Milk, arguably three of the more important gay documentaries. This will be their narrative film debut. And the film will also star David Strathairn, Mary Louise Parker, Alan Alda, Jeff Daniels and Paul Rudd.
Then theres the Jim Carrey–Ewen McGregor dark comic love story I Love You Phillip Morris and the Sasha Baron Cohen Borat-follow up, Bruno.
Since Milk will be the first post-Brokeback film to come out of a studio or studio specialty division, this slew of upcoming releases is certainly a pleasant surprise. But where’s the lesbians? Or the blacks? Or the trans-folk? I fear that as gayness moves more and more into the mainstream – only a certain kind – likely wealthy, always white and male, mostly masculine and non threatening – will get play in Hollywood, and everything else will get their premiere on Logo.
Its also curious to see that the same actors keep popping up in these films. Milk’s James Franco and Emile Hirsch seemingly graduated from gay biopic second bananas to lead ponies in Howl and Woodstock. And Damon, who was originally slated to play Josh Brolin‘s character in Milk is now playing Michael Douglas‘s lover in Liberace.
The tendency for most of these films to be biopics will probably make them a bit easier for mainstream crowds to swallow. It is history – just like Capote was three years ago. And thus the film attains a sort of cultural capital that trumps the fact that its history about gays. It all depends on how homosexuality is included in all the films. Milk seems like it might get this trend off to a nicely explicit start, judging from that trailer. So I’m very excited to see how people react to that.
Of all the films, though, Bruno might be the especially interesting release. Are people as comfortable watching Cohen explore homophobia in America as they are prejudices against a man from Kazakhstan? The straight dudes that came out in droves to Borat might have a little more difficult time repressing the fact that Cohen is laughing AT them, not with them, when its a prejudice that I feel is much more abundant and much more accepted. All I know is that I’m a lot more comfortable watching pretty much anything than thinking of Michael Douglas in any sexual context. So of all the films to downplay the gay, my hope is that its Liberace. James Franco, on the other hand… I keep watching that split second he gets out of the pool in the Milk trailer over and over and..