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A Tale of Two Trailers: The De-Gaying of "A Single Man"

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire November 9, 2009 at 5:43AM

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.
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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

This article is related to: Features, A Single Man