Christopher Isherwood | Film | News | Tom Ford

Not Gay: Filmmakers Won't Let A Single Man Come Out of the Closet


Many people noted that the first promotional one-sheet for Tom Ford's debut film A Single Man (inset), made no reference to the fact that the film is an adaptation of a book written by a gay man (Christopher Isherwood) about a day in the life of a gay man.

Single Wrote the Hollywood Reporter, last October: "Published in 1964, the novel centers on a gay man who, after the sudden death of his partner, is determined to persist in his usual routine, which is seen in the span of a single, ordinary day in Southern California."

And the second one-sheet (above), like the first, features Colin Firth and Julianne Moore, and no reference to the gay elements of the film (except for, perhaps, the fact that Firth seems lost in thought - perhaps thinking of something gay?). I've been told that Tom Ford personally had a hand in designing the one-sheet you see above.

The film's trailer had some of the gay elements removed for American audiences.

Ford told guests at a private viewing party Sunday night that the film's not a gay film:

“It’s extremely autobiographical. When you watch it, you are inside my head for an hour and a half. I’m fortunate enough to have experienced extreme materialism in my life, but the point of the film is to remind us of the little things in life — not some new shoes you bought or a new car. Life’s about living in the present. We live in an artificial world. In the fashion business, you live in the future for the next collection. But when I spend  time on my ranch in New Mexico—with the sun above me and the rattlesnakes growing under the bush—I appreciate the present. I wasn’t trying to make Terminator 12. But this is not a gay film. I don’t even think about that. There are so many gay characters on TV that it’s almost become a cliché.”

Ford Tom Ford began his recent interview with Kevin Sessums by saying, "I don’t think of myself as gay. That doesn’t mean that I’m not gay. I just don’t define myself by my sexuality."

So, honestly,  if in the film about the gay man we're inside the head of a gay filmmaker who doesn't think of himself as gay, the marketing for the film, which the 'gay-blind' filmmaker helped create, isn't going to be gay either.

Does that make sense? Yes. Is it right? Probably not. Are he and the film gay and has the studio gone out of its way to de-gay promotion for the film? Undoubtedly.

The critic David Ehrenstein wrote about the film in Towleroad's comments section: "I saw it last night and it's absolutely over whelming. I haven't been as deeply affected by a gay film since Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train. Like I'm sure many others I thought Tom Ford was nothing more than a Fashionista. But this is a real film by a real filmmaker. He understands Isherwood's novel completely. (Don Bachardy is listed as a creative consultant and he has a cameo turn as well.) Coming at this particular moment the film of A Single Man is a scream of rage against our "inisvibiliy" insifar (sic) as the Heterosexual Dictatorship is concerned. Colin Firth has a lock on an Oscar nomination and perhaps the prize itself."

If the film is a scream of rage against our invisibility, why are the filmmakers and studio once again trying to make gays invisible?

New York magazine tried to clear the issue up with Harvey Weinstein at a screening last night:

Is it difficult to to market a movie about a gay romance?
No, Brokeback Mountain did pretty well. Midnight Cowboy did pretty well. If you know how to market, you can market. There's an audience for it.

The poster seemed to play down the gay part.
I'm good. You got enough. Thank you.

The film opens in limited release in December.

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  1. If you read the entire interview you realize there's nobody that has his head up his own ass as much as Tom Ford. Narcissistic, self-involved, neurotic, egomaniacal -- it's almost unbearable to read and to think anybody thinks about himself that much in one day.

    And despite his protestations to the contrary he is a gay man who made a gay movie who happens to be expressing waves of internalized homophobia every time he opens his mouth.

    He makes me retch.


    Posted by: Jonathan Wallach | Nov 24, 2009 7:59:03 AM

  2. "I'm good. You got enough. Thank you." WTF?

    Retch away Mr. Wallach. Tom Ford may have give The Avocado a lousey interview but there's not a trace of internalized homophobia in the film itself.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Nov 24, 2009 8:21:34 AM

  3. The quote from the Sessums interview: "I don’t think of myself as gay. That doesn’t mean that I’m not gay. I just don’t define myself by my sexuality." really struck me.

    If you're gay on our planet, but you don't think of yourself as gay or define yourself by your sexuality, then aren't you a Log Cabin Republican?

    Posted by: interested bystander | Nov 24, 2009 8:29:00 AM

  4. The quote from the Sessums interview: "I don’t think of myself as gay. That doesn’t mean that I’m not gay. I just don’t define myself by my sexuality." struck me.

    If you're gay on our planet, but you don't think of yourself as gay or define yourself by your sexuality then aren't you a Log Cabin Republican?

    Posted by: interested bystander | Nov 24, 2009 8:35:33 AM

  5. A couple of things:

    - I agree that he must have some internalized homophobia (he grew up in suburban Texas), but I wonder if he's trying to say he's not defined by his being gay. He wants to be a fashion designer or film director who happens to be gay, who made a movie about a gay man-- not a gay director who made a gay movie. There's a big difference. If Martin Scorsese were making a movie with an Italian protagonist, and he said, "It's not an 'Italian' film," would people get up in arms about it? No.

    - I'm not at all surprised they've de-gayed the movie in the previews, since they completely misrepresent most movies to fit into a handful of archetypes (romantic comedy, dude comedy, action film, etc). I mean, have you seen the preview for American Beauty? It's basically a different movie. It's extremely stupid, but I don't think this is about Hollywood's homophobia, but rather about their continual appeal to the lowest common denominator to achieve the greatest possible audience.

    Posted by: Chris | Nov 24, 2009 8:35:34 AM

  6. "No, Brokeback Mountain did pretty well. Midnight Cowboy did pretty well. If you know how to market, you can market. There's an audience for it."

    Brokeback Mountain was subject to the same criticism in its day; the trailer de-emphasised the homosexual romance by focusing on the relationship between the women and the men, though the poster at least implied something. But there were plenty of criticisms from Middle America in the beginning, of people who wandered into the movie thinking it was some sort of conventional Western and were appalled to discover two men in love.

    Posted by: Zach | Nov 24, 2009 8:52:23 AM

  7. "The poster seemed to play down the gay part."
    "I'm good. You got enough. Thank you."

    That says it all, doesn't it?

    Posted by: David in Houston | Nov 24, 2009 9:07:09 AM

  8. I totally agree with the comments above by Chris about the film, etc. But as far as Tom Ford's comments they remind me of so many celebrities that want to down play the whole gay part of their lives in public. To me it is a dangerous thing to say I don't think of myself as gay but yes I am a gay man. Can you hear Harvey Milk or someone truly proud of their whole being saying that? I cannot. I am a gay man. It does not define my whole being but I have no problem thinking of myself as a gay man and knowing I am one. You can do both!! My life is not totally about that but I will never foeget it or choose to not offer opinions if someone asks me about gay issues. I will never say I don't think of myself as a gay man. It seems to imply a negative that I do not see and Tom Ford seems to feel. I am not surprised at the studio but I am surprised at him...but I don't know him either.

    Posted by: Rann | Nov 24, 2009 9:08:36 AM

  9. I agree with your post 100% Chris.

    The most rational one.

    There isn't one Hollyweird trailer or poster that has not COMPLETELY misrepresented a good and complex movie.

    That's life. That's people. And that's Hollyweird.

    Posted by: Rowan | Nov 24, 2009 9:11:01 AM

  10. @Chris: Spot on.

    It always seems more than pushy to me when gay men jump all over someone for being a man first and gay second. Since when did our sexuality HAVE to define us? Do filmmakers who are straight push the hetero aspect of their lives to the forefront? Many of us want acceptance but at the same time we seem to want to stand out and label ourselves GAY with a big pink neon sign so the world knows we're totally different and need recognition for it.

    You can't have it both ways in reality, but I'm sure many here will see things differently.

    As an artist, I get a constant raft of crap from people about not doing more gay art with gay themes. I do those kind of pieces when they occur naturally, but I don't want to be known as "that gay artist". I want to be known as "that great artist". If people have a problem with that, oh well. I'm out, I just don't need to be out loud like it's the biggest part of my life. It's not, art is.

    Posted by: johnny | Nov 24, 2009 9:14:54 AM

  11. Stupid marketing "move". Maybe he gains a metrosexual viewer, but he lost me and my husband. I'm not interested in seeing a movie made by a stereotypical filthy rich log cabin republican.

    Posted by: galore | Nov 24, 2009 9:19:12 AM

  12. I never said the film represented internalized homophobia, just that he espresses it with everything he says. He didn't write the film so he was kind of trapped into the Isherwood story.

    Saying he just happens to be gay and he made a movie about a gay man rather than a gay director who happened to make a gay movie is a distinction without a difference.

    And what I object to most about him is how he can go on about himself ad nauseum. Listening to him pat himself on the back because he wants his partner of 20 years to be happy (can you believe I think about somebody other than myself?) is like ready a parody of an interview.

    And I love the way he judges men who've had facelifts but filler and botox is fine (because he does it). His forehead looks like a mirror. I admit it, the film is probably brilliant but the man just makes me sick.

    Posted by: Jonathan | Nov 24, 2009 9:21:40 AM

  13. So A Single Man is "extremely autobiographical" - about Tom Ford? That would likely have come as a surprise to Christopher Isherwood.

    The film may well be a work of genius. I adore the leads, and the book is a very Serious Big Work.

    That doesn't mean that the director isn't a bit of an idiot. Honey, you're a dressmaker, you've just made a movie from about the gayest novel ever written - and you sleep with men. You're gay.

    Posted by: Muscato | Nov 24, 2009 9:34:32 AM

  14. Who cares? The film itself wasn't de-gayed. They used to do that consistently (remember Fried Green Tomatoes?). What are we complaining about? That the studio wants people to see it outside a dozen art houses in major cities?

    I think I get what Ford is saying. I'm gay. But I'm more than that. If this is viewed as a gay film it will get shown in 12 theaters and go to DVD. I think they believe they have a more significant film than that, culturally speaking and it's a smart business move to market it to the straight audience and not just to gay people.

    I'm more disgusted at a part of the gay community that is never happy with what anyone says or does. It was good for us that so many straight people saw Brokeback. If only we could have gotten more of them to see Big Eden or Shelter. If putting a woman on the poster helps with that, where's the harm?

    Posted by: Houndentenor | Nov 24, 2009 9:39:00 AM

  15. This is absurd. Is the gay-but-not-Gay director who made the gay-but-not-Gay film hoping that everyone will pick up on the gay-but-not-Gay subtext of the protagonist's story? Are filmgoers supposed to view this film so that afterwards they pick up on the irony of the film's marketing? Is that where the message lies? Cause if so, I'll just save my money and agree that yes, sometimes people internalize their homophobia so much that it makes them waste their days in dreamland and avoid their true selves. It appears that is what Mr. Ford is doing. I don't care how he wants to identify himself personally, but you can't say that your gay-but-not-Gay film is autobiographical if the major point of the film is in dealing (or not dealing) with your sexual identity? It feels like he's playing out the plot of this film for a modern audience in the very interviews he gives to promote it.

    And I disagree with Ford saying that there are so many gay characters on TV that it has become a cliche. Of course, it depends where you're looking. Network shows have only given us a handful GLBT characters, and half are thanks to Ugly Betty (kudos for T and GL of color). But, if there is a clichéd gay character Mr. Ford is referring to, I'm assuming he means out and proud (and white?) gay men as comedic foil. Yes, that may be cliché. But if you're widening your scope to include any TV programming on any network, and include Logo and GLBT people on reality TV shows, I think you find characters that aren't always peeled from a mold. If there are any cliché hollywood films dealing with repressed sexuality from 50 years ago, I would say that "A Single Man" seems to be following in the same vein (or in Mr. Ford's case vain... okay sorry for that but I couldn't resist) as "Far From Heaven" and "Brokeback Mountain," so I can't really get on the bandwagon that he's breaking into uncharted territory here, except for maybe making the gayest film that has its own identity crisis.

    I don't want to completely diss him, but its maddening when someone of his success level still can't seem to be comfortable with the very identity that has given him the perspective that led to his success. Internalized homophobia is something every gay person has to deal with. Every one. And maybe Ford and the Weinsteins are hoping there are enough affluent gay-but-not-Gay people who will fork out $10 to see this film and have some sort of psycho-sexual-gratification. But if it really is not a "Gay Film" and not from a "Gay Director" maybe the "Gay Blogs" shouldn't give it any more free promotion to get "Gay Dollars."

    Posted by: Andy F | Nov 24, 2009 9:39:39 AM

  16. Tom Ford and Adam Lambert remind me of Roy Cohn from ANGELS IN AMERICA:

    "Roy Cohn is not a homosexual. Roy Cohn is a heterosexual man, Henry, who fucks around with guys."

    Tom needs to watch it: gays aren't flocking to works with gay themes that are being marketed in ways that are insulting to us. David Ehrenstein was enthusiastic about TAKING WOODSTOCK, too, and I don't know anyone who saw it.

    Posted by: Landon Bryce | Nov 24, 2009 9:40:39 AM

  17. Johnny, to answer some of what you said, here is how I feel about it. To be able to think of yourself as a gay man, unlike Tom, does not mean you are letting it define who you are. It just means you are okay with reality. But as far as peole pressing you as an artist who happens to be gay to do more gay art, that is none of their business. You get to choose what art you do! But then I go back to your other point where I have to disagree. You say "Many of us want acceptance but at the same time we seem to want to stand out and label ourselves GAY with a big pink neon sign so the world knows we're totally different and need recognition for it. You can't have it both ways in reality, but I'm sure many here will see things differently." First of all I have no problem with pink neon signs even though I have none. But if someone wants one or to wear a gay t-shirt more power to them. Second, why can you not have acceptance or actually equal rights plus stand out some? What is wrong with that? I am really tired of people saying because a person is a bit different and stands out that he or she is labeling themselves and therefore will not get equal rights! I am not saying you are arguing that but I have heard it a lot lately and it is disgusting. We are automatically different because of who we are. We do not have to stress that every day but by God be proud of who you are and willing to speak up for yourself and your community. Let me ask you this Johnny, if someone asks you about gay rights issues, do you feel comfortable answering with your opinion? You seem like you would but people like Adam Lambert will not but he will have mock fellatio on stage in prime time in front of millions.

    Posted by: Rann | Nov 24, 2009 9:43:20 AM


    "So A Single Man is "extremely autobiographical" - about Tom Ford? That would likely have come as a surprise to Christopher Isherwood."

    Exactly. He has narcissistic personality disorder and, especially if you've known people in your own life with this problem, reading his interviews makes you cringe.

    That being said, I will see the movie as it sounds magnificent and everybody who has seen it has nothing but great things to say. I'll just try to put him out of my mind when I do.

    Posted by: Jonathan | Nov 24, 2009 9:59:53 AM

  19. Weinstein is a tool and since when is Midnight Cowboy a gay romance?

    Posted by: sean | Nov 24, 2009 10:01:15 AM

  20. agree with what you said about Tom, Adam and Roy.

    Posted by: Rann | Nov 24, 2009 10:02:33 AM

  21. Wonder what the director's comments will be like on the DVD? Good god I will not listen to them if I ever have the DVD. He will be explaining in every scene how it is not gay.
    Or as someone on this site recently said "post-gay" which according to him is a good thing.

    Posted by: Rann | Nov 24, 2009 10:08:43 AM

  22. I'm sure you don't know anyone who saw "Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train" either, Landon.

    Your point?

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Nov 24, 2009 10:09:50 AM

  23. At least visually, Julienne Moore sells the style and aesthetic of the film more than Colin. I can't defend the trailers, but as for the posters, that bouffant and jewelry gives wonderful context. These aren't the first posters in history that misrepresent the film they're advertising.

    Posted by: Gregoire | Nov 24, 2009 10:11:50 AM

  24. Um, you're either gay or you're not. I never got this "I'm not a gay writer/artist/filmmaker" bs. It's basically code for "I want a wider audience" and guess what? That sort of talk backfires.

    I very much own my sexual identity in relation to my art, but I think the difference is that even though my work contains queer characters in it, the themes I work with are universal. I think any good artist who is not a straight male WASP can communicate universal truths to a mixed audience without having to sell out their identity. Unfortunately this is a distinction Hollywood cannot make or sell to Middle America. Why can't this film be marketed as a film about grief (a universal subject) featuring gay characters? It's sad that audiences cannot latch on to the former without getting hung up on the latter. But I suppose growing up as a minority where I rarely saw myself represented in film, TV, music, etc. that I learned how to identify with material in different ways. I don't think the majority of movie audiences in this country have the same skillset.

    Posted by: Alex | Nov 24, 2009 10:13:15 AM

  25. There are plenty of us for whom our sexuality is not the biggest descriptor. I'm a colleague, a son, a brother, a neighbour, a church goer amongst other things - and guess what? My interactions don't signify anything about my sexuality because it is irrelevant to most of my social and work life. If we only seek to define ourselves in one way then we negate true equality and diversity. So let Tom define his own life and don't take offence to those of us who fail to see why we should live in a ghetto.

    Posted by: Stewart | Nov 24, 2009 10:31:32 AM

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