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by Peter Knegt
November 9, 2009 5:43 AM
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A Tale of Two Trailers: The De-Gaying of "A Single Man"

A scene from Tom Ford's "A Single Man." Image courtesy of The Weinstein Company.

While the heterosexualized poster for Tom Ford's not-so-heterosexual "A Single Man" caused a wee stir last week, it seems the recently released trailer has just re-enforced those complaints.

"A Single Man" was adapted by Ford and David Scearce from Christopher Isherwood's 1964 novel of the same name, regarded as one of the first and finest novels of the early gay liberation movement. A meditation on love and death and isolation, it follows a single day in the life of George (Firth), a middle-aged gay Englishman working as a college professor in 1962 Los Angeles. His longtime lover, Jim (played by Matthew Goode in a series of flashbacks) has recently died in a car accident, and as a result George is the midst of self-destruction. Aided by his boozy best friend Charly (Julianne Moore) and an inviting young student (Nicholas Hoult), George finds unexpected hope as his intended final hours wind down.

"A Single Man" marks the directorial debut of acclaimed fashion designer Tom Ford, who called the movie, "the thing I’ve done in my life that I’m the most proud of," during a recent interview with indieWIRE. He sold the movie to Harvey Weinstein hours after debuting it at the Toronto International Film Festival.

A comparative study of the trailer that Ford's production company released as the film premiered at the Venice festival (where it won the Queer Lion Award for best gay film), and the trailer just released by The Weinstein Company tells quite the tale. The new trailer uses the same music and mostly the same shots, except it adds in a bunch of quotes that not-so-subtly emphasize the film's Oscar buzz, leaving out a few choice shots - pretty much all of which are suggestive of the film's gay content.

The new trailer essentially is altered to suggest the core of the film is the relationship between Firth and Moore's characters, even removing from the end of the trailer the names of both Matthew Goode and Nicholas Hoult. Moreover, in the first trailer, we see Firth's character kiss both Goode and Moore, in the second we just get Moore. There's also a sequence of shots in the first trailer which crosscuts Firth, who plays a professor in the film, staring into the eyes of both a female student and a male student. In the second, as you might guess, we only get the female (in a telling twist, instead of cutting to the male eyes, the trailer cuts to a quote from Entertainment Weekly saying "[Firth's] performance is bound to win attention in this year's Oscar race").

Gone completely in the new trailer are a few shots of Firth running into the smoking (literally and figuratively) male prostitute outside a liquor store (one of the film's more homoerotic sequences), as well as a few shots of him and Hoult running romantically and shirtlessly into the ocean together.

Take a look for yourself:

Trailer #1, released by Tom Ford's production company:

Trailer #2, released by The Weinstein Company:


In with the Oscar buzz, out with the gayness. It seems The Weinstein Company doesn't want to take any chances with all those homophobic Academy members. Call it the "Brokeback Mountain" approach. When that film was released back in 2005, distributor Focus Features published a a series of "For Your Consideration" advertisements emphasizing the heterosexual relationships between both Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams's characters, and Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway's (take a look for yourself here). And we all know how "Brokeback Mountain"'s Oscar campaign worked out in the end...

For more on "A Single Man"'s place in this year's Oscar race, check out this article on Oscar's "gay tendencies."

RELATED ARTICLES at indieWIRE:

- Interview: Tom Ford: “This is the thing I’ve done in my life that I’m the most proud of.”
- Dispatch: “Single Man” Sells Overnight; Toronto Buzzes at Fest Midpoint

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22 Comments

  • borderhacker | November 22, 2009 11:00 AMReply

    If this is just to get Oscar votes ... hopefully members of the Academy actually WATCH the films and don't just look at the trailers and posters before they vote? If I was a member of the Academy, I would be pissed off about what appears to be a deliberate attempt to misrepresent the content of the film in order to curry votes.

    Dane Cook has said that "the wrong poster sends the wrong audience into the theater". I think the wrong trailer does even more so.

  • AWEISER278 | November 22, 2009 4:58 AMReply

    What is the matter with America? Can't we ever deal with life as it is? There are gay people in the world, get over it already! It is late in life. We are not going back to the bible times, and after that there has plenty of gays, some the genius of the world. Just get over it already

  • yb5 | November 22, 2009 4:14 AMReply

    pjayyx, do they have to put some sort of "knowledge" out there when its a trailer featuring African-Americans? Because there are some people out there who are racist, and may be offended by a movie prominently featuring minorities. Just because some of the viewers may be prejudiced against a group featured in the movie it doesn't mean the trailer for it must be edited to cater to those with the prejudices.

  • Mmartinez | November 22, 2009 4:03 AMReply

    The idea that the film trailer was "cleaned up" is just another example of releasing company fearing for their profits. The "re-editing" of the trailer is laughable at best. This is a gay movie from beginning to end. It's based on a book by a writer who came out in the 60's, the director is gay, and all of the actors knew they were appearing in a gay themed movie. Assuming the audience is too stupid or narrow minded to accept the gay themes is ridiculous. Pretending its not a gay movie to get people to come and see it regardless of the quality of the performances is the reason we get dreck like Land of the Lost and not enough good movies that don't assume the average IQ of the people in the seats is 10.

  • pjayyx | November 22, 2009 3:57 AMReply

    yb5, that is a really good point. In all honesty, I'm kinda 50/50 with my opinion, after hearing everyone's responses, like i said previously. I think currently, homosexuality is more of a hot topic today, and racism was more of the hot topic years ago. I am way too young to know this for fact, but I would assume when they made movies featuring African Americans when racism was a very sensitive topic, they would somehow note that African Americans would be in the movie, and not as a slave or something negative. If I was living in the 70's when schools started to integrate, and I was against African Americans, I would WANT to know they were a positive role in a movie. I honestly don't mind homosexuality or different races, but sadly, some people are extremely offended by it, and I think they have the right to know what they are paying to see.

    Another point to think about: If you see a movie trailer and think you might want to see the movie, you should probably read the movie summary they have online. http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1810057758/details This site, for example, Mentions about his "long time partner" which does insinuate homosexuality. I can't say every single movie will say every single sensitive subject, but if people actually take the time to investigate for the plot, which takes 5 seconds to read, they could most likely figure out if they actually want to see the movie. I know a few movie trailers don't really tell you what the story is about, and if you're going to pay $10 (where I live) to see a movie, you should look a little more into it than just watching a trailer. I'd like to think a lot of people do that, but I honestly don't know. All I know is I usually take about 5 minutes to look it up, its easy, and could potentially save you money.

  • pjayyx | November 22, 2009 3:41 AMReply

    Before reading the comments, I thought the second trailer was really...unfair. Now, I don't even know what to think. I can honestly see both sides here. They are trying to make money, BUT it could offend viewers that weren't expecting homosexuality. I can understand the problems with each, and I don't know if we can say which is "right" and "wrong", because what is "right" for the movie makers does not seem to be "right" for every single viewer. I think the second trailer is a little more interesting, but they do need to put in SOME sort of knowledge of the homosexual content, because unfortunately in this world, many people cannot tolerate homosexuality, even though it's completely unfair since heterosexuality is broadcast everywhere, especially in films. There's always a romance, but (almost) never between two of the same sex in films, let alone movie trailors.

  • Dtrain | November 22, 2009 2:28 AMReply

    Whereas debating the value of trailers is not high on my list, this 'de-gaying' trailer debate had the potential for providing interesting and important insight into how films are marketed. Unfortunately, the debate has been put on hold. Trailer #2 (the watered down version) has been removed based on "user agreement violations." Not sure who blew the whistle. But if Weinstein Co. feels the best way to justify their actions is to not face them, then I think that alone speaks volumns.

  • yb5 | November 22, 2009 2:12 AMReply

    jflower, what if people don't like heterosexuality "thrown in their face?" Does that mean movie trailers should stop showing heterosexual kissing?

  • jflower | November 22, 2009 1:28 AMReply

    I think only gay people are viewing and voting giving this poll a skewed result. Lighten up gay people! Quit being so overly sensitive about things. Just because some people don't like gay-ness thrown in their face doesn't mean your sexual preference isn't real. Get a grip on your life choice, accept yourself and quit worrying about acceptance from others.

  • brant | November 11, 2009 10:11 AMReply

    It's not a matter of "agenda," Jorjal, nor is it a matter of "purism." It's about honesty.

  • jorjal | November 11, 2009 9:06 AMReply

    There are some really solid comments and points made in this discussion. However, I think some may not be seeing that both trailers show a character who is wrestling with a serious enough issue that he has pulled out a gun and something dangerous may happen. Remember: the trailer is not supposed to be a linear telling of the movie. It is to be a tease to get you to want to go see the movie in order to discover what the drama and the mystery is.

    One trailer makes it obviously about a man tormented by a happy gay relationship while living a straight life, one makes it about a man tormented and it appears it might be a triangle between a man and a woman and a man and a man. But without showing the kiss between the men, we're not really sure - which keeps the intrigue going.

    For the LGBT purists, yes, (I don't mean this in a hostile manner) you're not getting the agenda trailer you want, that says, "look, look it's a gay movie, come see our gay movie." For the studio, this is a much smarter approach to sell more tickets on opening weekend.

    Personally, I'd go see it based on either trailer. But IMHO professionally, the new trailer is a better sell as a wider studio film and the first trailer is a better sell as a smaller niche film.

  • ktwbc | November 11, 2009 5:50 AMReply

    oops, I apologize, I'm getting the stories about their old company Miramax and the new Weinstein Co confused -- Miramax has reduced their release schedule to 5. Weinstein is at 10 -- though they have their fair share of layoffs and rough times themselves, and my comments about the film content still stand.

  • ktwbc | November 11, 2009 5:46 AMReply

    There's a reason that the Weinstein company is on its last legs. Most of the NY office has been let go, the remaining LA-based skeleton office mostly exists to manage the existing film library. I think their release commitment is down to just three a year, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them just shut that part down altogether and turn into 100% film rental.

    So with a company in shatters, really bad decisions like this get made. Makes you wonder why they even bothered to pick up this film. The people who would go see it due to (or regardless of) the gay content won't get that, and anyone offended by gay content is getting "tricked". So who wins here?

  • tom hall | November 11, 2009 3:00 AMReply

    Can we agree that "straightened" might be a better term than "de-gayed"?

  • brant | November 10, 2009 10:48 AMReply

    How can anyone defend this? Peter is clearly right, and even lets them off the hook a bit. Not only does the second trailer make this film look 100% percent like a heterosexual romance (which is what I would have assumed had I not read anything about it before seeing this), it also has a very strange moment at the end in which Matthew Goode's dreamlike closeup, followed by Colin Firth's tortured face, implies that though a good upstanding hetero, with a beautiful wife or lover (Moore is definitively played out here as though a wife or lover), he has gay demons!! DEMONS! This is disgraceful, and anyone who says otherwise is making excuses for a corrupt, bigoted system.

  • jorjal | November 10, 2009 9:33 AMReply

    I think you're all forgetting the purpose of a trailer. You want to reach the absolute widest audience with something that teases but doesn't tell the story. There is obviously an incredible drama going on here - in the Weinstein trailer too - which is very intriguing. The new trailer is tighter, more dramatic, more mysterious and very compelling. The new trailer tells us there is something really important and possibly tragic going on. Given all the wonderful shots available, surely the film (I haven't seen) is very special on many levels. Narrowing the focus down to just a festival crowd or arthouse crowd or gay niche misses a huge part of an audience which should see and learn from high quality films like this one. The point is to put people in the seats, not make GLAAD happy. Quotes are good for TV ads... but getting tedious in trailers. Same with festival laurels. Stop interrupting the flow. - J

  • rickovitz | November 10, 2009 8:27 AMReply

    great exercise. thanks for setting up. you can't de-gay this movie any more than Julianne Moore could have her way Colin Firth's character. everyone relies on quotes in this day and age.

  • larry-411 | November 9, 2009 11:54 AMReply

    Bravo, Mr. Knegt. I was absolutely appalled at the Weinstein trailer. I loved the film (I picked it as one of my top 3 favorites from Toronto out of 30 films I saw) but was dumbfounded at how they are using Moore's presence to fool audiences into thinking her role is much larger than it is. Meanwhile, Hoult appears for a fraction of a second in the trailer.

    I love Julianne Moore but she is simply not central to this film.

    I am simply disgusted at the marketing which appears to be underway.

  • Jonathan in Dayton | November 9, 2009 10:22 AMReply

    I agree with Peter.

    When I saw the film in Toronto, and then heard that Weinstein Co. picked it up later that night, I figured that the Fade To Black trailer wouldn't be used (I also guessed it might disappear from the internet).

    Firth's character, George, is unapologetically gay. In that sense alone, the new trailer is misleading. I think the original trailer is stunning and in league with recent Almodovar trailers like TALK TO HER...and a more honest representation of the material.

  • olenholm | November 9, 2009 9:21 AMReply

    Agree with Mark. I feel like I'm swirling around on some ballroom floor about to be sick the whole time. It doesn't really matter who's kissing what because there is zero context; the only offering being an elegant aesthetic most likely of little interest to brutish homophobes.

    And since when in the recent media past hasn't just a little tinge of gay proved to be extremely secretly alluring and ultimately lucrative?

  • Peter Knegt | November 9, 2009 8:58 AMReply

    Really?? I found the added quotes way too obvious and desperate. Almost every one mentions Oscar contention. When I first saw the first trailer, I was impressed with how flowing and hypnotic it was. Now they're just whoring themselves out.

    I'd also disagree with your suggestion as to what the real issue is here. Removing multiple shots of content that suggests the film's true, queer nature - while unsurprising - is still really unfortunate. Particularly because now it manipulates the audience into believing that a heterosexual romance between Firth and Moore plays a major role in the film. Simplistically, it's dishonest, and on a more complex level, it's homophobic.

  • Mark Lipsky | November 9, 2009 8:38 AMReply

    I don't think the issue is so much whether they de-gayed the trailer as whether they de-bored the trailer. Clearly they "cleaned it up" (a mistake in my opinion) but by adding the quotes they gave an intensely dull and meandering trailer some structure and purpose.