It was inevitable, though this was rather quick: Hollywood wants to give the story of gay marriage the big screen treatment via the case that led to the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling last month.
The New York Times is reporting that Fox has made a deal for the life rights of both Jim Obergefell and his attorney Al Gerhardstein. The former is the man who successfully petitioned the court to force his home state of Ohio to recognize his marriage between him and his partner of 21 years, John Arthur (they were married in Maryland only months before John’s death in 2013). It is suggested he would be a central figure in the film.
Fox also picked up rights to Obergefell’s tentatively titled upcoming book “21 Years To Midnight,” which he will be writing with journalist Debbie Cenziper (who has won a Pulitzer).
No word on a director or writer, but the folks behind “Twilight,” “The Fault in Our Stars” and “The Maze Runner” — Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen — are set to produce. Which obviously leaves is a little concerned. I mean, really, the whole thing does.
Going all “Twilight” on this story and watering it down for the masses would obviously be an awful idea. And frankly, this isn’t even the LGBT rights story we feel desperately needs cinematic treatment right now anyway. There are far more important — and dramatic, for that matter — examples from the 50 or so years of activism/homophobia/ that came before. Like The Wolfenden Report or the forming of the Gay Liberation Front or the insanity of this case in Georgia in 1986. And don’t think that just because we have “Angels in America,” “The Normal Heart” and, ugh, “Philadelphia” that we are done with AIDS narratives. Hollywood gave us like 20,000 movies about the Vietnam War. 58,307 Americans died in that war. Over 650,000 Americans have died of AIDS. You don’t think the AIDS is comparable to the Vietnam War? Go watch “How To Survive a Plague.”
This is not to say whatever Fox does with all these bought rights couldn’t turn out okay. Hopefully they go the right route and hire a team that can deliver something similar to what Gus Van Sant and Dustin Lance Black did with “Milk,” a rare example of an exceptional mainstream take on the gay rights movement (made by actual LGBT folks to boot). Or at the very least give us something along the lines of last year’s respectably sentimental UK import “Pride.”
But what happens when minority stories go mainstream and money can be made from audiences beyond themselves has proved consistently problematic in terms of representation. Between this and the upcoming Roland Emmerich-directed “Stonewall,” the Hollywoodification of a certain segment of LGBT folks’ stories could be about to have a moment we can’t control. Fingers crossed Hollywood gets it right, but I wouldn’t bet on it.