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. Stewart, I guess I just don't see how one can prioritize the different aspects of one's identity. I believe all the pieces make up the whole . . . and they don't exist in isolation. I'm a whole bunch of things too but I could never truthfully say my gayness has not impacted my artistic identity or my cultural identity or my socioeconomic identity or my friendships or work life and vice versa. I don't think I could say my sexuality is irrelevant to all the other aspects of my life . . . obviously I have made a lot of choices that are informed by my sexuality--for example, I wouldn't have a day job at a place that was staffed by homophobes; I have chosen to live in a city that is very accepting of gay people; I choose friends that are cool with homosexuality, etc. etc. etc.

    Posted by: Alex | Nov 24, 2009 10:44:47 AM

  2. Alex I think that you make Tom's point - he simply does not prioritize his sexuality. I think there is also the perspective of age. I'm 47 and at this age I can honestly say I make very few choices based on my being gay. That was very different when I was younger when I would think twice about going to anything other then a gay bar, having a wide circle of mainly gay friends and living in a City of course. Now I am in a small village in England where I live with my civil partner. The choice to live this life may be a little easier here because the legal and civil base lines for equality around sexual orientation are further advanced then the U.S (where we previously lived for 10 years). Plus the Brits generally have little interest in what goes on in your bedroom!

    Posted by: Stewart | Nov 24, 2009 11:00:48 AM

  3. Let's see, a man who is gay but doesn't want to identify as gay makes a movie about a gay man based on a book by a gay man that the movie studios don't want to identify as a gay movie. Isherwood must be rolling over in his grave. Tom Ford does indeed have his head wedged in where the sun doesn't shine.

    Posted by: Jack M | Nov 24, 2009 11:05:27 AM

  4. If Ford wants people to see the film he might be better off emphasizing the gayness and de-emphasizing that it's "extremely autobiographical" since most everyone seems to think he's a narcissistic douche.

    We're all defined by our sexuality (which isn't just about the bedroom) since it's a primary aspect of our lives and rules who we romantically love--doesn't get much more important than that. And it's impossible to separate one's artistic sensibility from one's sexuality (and where one grew up, and one's family etc).

    I do get the part about wanting to be an artist first rather than a GAY (or fill in the other minority) artist, since majority artists don't have to contend with labels and having their works shuffled to some minority shelf in the corner. But I'm not sure which viewers they think they'll reach by de-gaying the promos? The straight teen boys who always flock to Colin Firth/Julianne Moore dramas (that's already totally gay!)?

    Ultimately, the promo campaign doesn't really matter. If the film is good and stays true to Isherwood's novel, then they can pimp it out however they like as far as I'm concerned.

    Posted by: Ernie | Nov 24, 2009 11:20:36 AM

  5. Alex, your post above makes so much sense!! Thanks for phrasing it so well. I hope people on here will now understand we are not trying to only label ourselves gay above everything but that it is foolish to try to marginalize that or worry about being labeled gay.(by ourselves or others)
    If you do not want to think of your self as a gay man but you are, that is a bad sign of your self worth in my opinion.

    Posted by: Rann | Nov 24, 2009 11:20:50 AM

  6. I really see no issue with a poster that has the movie's two principal actors, because they're the ones who are most likely to get butts into movie theaters. Just because the main character is gay does not mean he needs to be with another guy on the poster.

    Furthermore, this movie is more about loss and moving on after someone you love dies, not about any gay rights issues, so his late partner doesn't need to be there, especially since in the movie, he's, you know, dead.

    Posted by: Daniel | Nov 24, 2009 11:36:53 AM

  7. well, he is not define by the word "gay"
    i get is very important to define yourself, but you are don't gain anything by saying you are gay, i have not received my toaster and i have not receive my card,
    i'm glad he can talk about his boyfriend and be succesful.

    we can get caught up in words and never achieve anything.

    Posted by: | Nov 24, 2009 1:05:31 PM

  8. Daniel, thank you! The two stars of the movie are in the poster. Big deal. Why would you not have Ms. Moore in your poster if she is the best-known person in the cast?

    Posted by: styleboy | Nov 24, 2009 1:06:28 PM

  9. 1)Tom Ford is a bit of an ass but I'm not sure why he is being slammed for disliking the label "gay" when he is an out man who has had a same-sex partner for many, many years. Labels are stupid and if your sexuality is your primary identity then you would have to be a pretty shallow person.
    2)Harvey Weinstein is also a bit of a ass/ogre but he HAS championed queer film and filmmakers for many, many decades. Film is an art and film is a business. Wanting to broaden the appeal of a film is good business sense. If a film gets labeled as strictly a gay boutique film it will have a very tiny audience that will even scare off many queer friendly straights. The more people that see this film, the better.
    3)It's highly probable that the studio is contractually obligated to put Julianne Moore on the poster. Size and placement of credits and promotional images is standard in all "star" contracts. Also, the photo is fabulous...Julianne looks great!

    Posted by: Michael Strangeways | Nov 24, 2009 1:49:56 PM

  10. This is not really about the poster guys. I have no problem with that. It is the comments Tom Ford and others have made recently that bother me. The poster is fine and I couldn't give a rat's ass what's on it. Julianne Moore always looks great and she does on that too!

    Posted by: Rann | Nov 24, 2009 1:54:42 PM

  11. The film looks good to me. Won't be the first time an asshole directed a great movie.

    Posted by: Dhani Darko | Nov 24, 2009 3:50:54 PM

  12. Calling GLAAD....paging GLAAD....

    Whats that? They are giving the GLAAD award to A SINGLE MAN no much you want to bet.

    Cause it just lost the OSCAR

    Posted by: MCnNYC | Nov 24, 2009 6:37:05 PM

  13. When prominent celebrities (Tom Ford) reject the "label" gay even as the word "gay" is part of the political dialogue ("gay marriage" is still used frequently as a political phrase even as forward thinkers try to insist on the more accurate phrase "marriage equality") then those celebrities are making a powerful political statement. Namely, that being perceived as gay is a detriment.

    There is no question that the film is being portrayed as more heterosexual to appeal to a broader audience. There are pros and cons in both directions with a campaign like this. But it cannot be dismissed as existing in some artistic void where gayness does not matter.

    Female painters who first broke the all-male barriers into the serious art world would look somewhat ridiculous if they said, "I don't think of myself as a woman."

    Ford's self-loathing is only made more obvious by his denials.

    Posted by: Gregg | Nov 24, 2009 6:37:38 PM

  14. Regarding the poster -- it's all about selling tickets. It's all about the money.

    Regarding Tom Ford -- it's more than about being gay, it's about making money.

    I guess I won't complain if I get to see an Isherwood story on film.

    Posted by: jessejames | Nov 24, 2009 7:32:22 PM

  15. Something tells me that if Tom Ford was straight, he would be an Oreck salesman in Albuquerque.
    Don't downplay being gay, Tom! Be proud to be among the genetically gifted!

    Posted by: ty | Nov 24, 2009 11:52:22 PM

  16. I am a former nationally ranked athlete, a suma cum laude graduate with three degrees, I'm a published writer, I'm a commercial/residential designer, I'm a husband, I'm a son, I'm a brother; BUT, until the day that my gay brothers and sisters gain full equality, I am a Gay man first. Why? Because we need to tell our stories. We need to tell our families, our coworkers, our fellow parishioners at church, our neighbors, etc. We need to tell them who we are, about our lives, our struggles, whom we are in love with, to whom we are partnered or married; me must tell our stories until people know us better, until people no more of us, until people realize that we are just as diverse as general society itself.

    We began to come out, but we only shared just so much of ourselves. We must face our fears and wear whom we are on our shirt sleeves, just as those who took the first step out of their closets did. It is up to us now to take the second, and truly be out in the open.

    I'm sorry Tom, Adam, Jodi, I beg to differ. Perhaps your bank accounts, your legal resources, and all the other resources available to you provide you with a feeling of security, but many (if not most) gay folks just don't share the same feeling of security as do you. Some of us are locked out of our partner's hospital rooms, some of us don't have the legal right to make funeral arrangements for our dead loved ones, some of us will lose our homes when our partners die and we are unable to afford the reaccessed tax bill and the estate taxes; and some of us are just kids at home, minorities in our own families, scared to tell anyone who we are, desperate to have someone to look to, someone other than some celebrity who is petrified to come out, who wishes to distance himself from his sexual orientation, and for those of us at this stage in our lives, being different, being gay is just about all we think about...sometimes our classmates won't allow us to forget.

    Maybe your pay a hundred grand one day soon to have a baby with a model who will carry it for you, Tom, but for me and for many of my friends (straight and gay...those who canvas neighborhoods in our time off to talk to folks about our issues), all those gay kids out there are our own children, and we want to leave a better world for them to live in.

    Being gay is not all I am, but it is a damned important part of who I am, and until I see a day that we live in a country that is truly equal or until the day I die, it may very well be the most important part of who I am.

    Posted by: MackMichael | Nov 24, 2009 11:53:54 PM

  17. "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." -- Tom Ford

    I agree with that statement but I still think he's an ass. He is so affected, and his persona so calculated, that he seems to be performance art himself.

    Posted by: Mark | Nov 25, 2009 12:21:26 AM

  18. Genetically gifted? C'mon, David Ehrenstein is gay. So much for that hypothesis.

    But yes, if Tom Ford were straight, he'd be a menial worker who no one would ever have heard of except his little family...and that has nothing to do with his genetics.

    Posted by: TANK | Nov 25, 2009 12:43:37 AM

  19. And his cologne...another nail in the coffin. But, he saved gucci for whatever reason that wasn't good taste. Colin Firth used to be hot (e.g., mr. darcy in pride and prejudice). He's now ugly, elderly, and blech at 49. God, men should disappear at 35-40.

    Posted by: TANK | Nov 25, 2009 12:55:00 AM

  20. David,

    Part of my point is that you often like movies that other gay people find boring or homophobic. The more significant part is that gay people are no longer going to see something just because there are gay people in it, especially if they see the filmmakers as hostile to gay issues at large. Demitri Martin's homophobia did keep gay people away from TAKING WOODSTOCK. Gay people avoided BRUNO like everyone else. Ford's comments are going to keep some gay people away from A SINGLE MAN.

    Posted by: Landon Bryce | Nov 25, 2009 2:14:38 AM

  21. out of the several hundred radio,tv,newspapers & other media interviews i recently did for Ang Lee's TAKING WOODSTOCK, my discussing that I, the GAY MAN who saved Woodstock, only made it to about a dozen. Only two, one from Texas another from Alabama, were openly hostile and nasty homopobic reporters.

    The movie is based on my book: Taking Woodstock. The specific details of my involvement with STONEWALL and my being a Gay man - has been deleted by at least 50% of the 4.5million blogs about me and the movie. Those bothering to read the book in addition to seeing the movie, did present (mostly) fair and non-homophobic reviews.

    I am happy to say my publisher, Rudy Shur of Square One Press, (straight) has been courageous in putting a Gay hero onto the international radar/gaydar.

    I am so indebted to Ang Lee, James Schamus and Focus Features, for their artistic integrity, in making a movie about a Gay Hero - who for a change, is not a killer psychopath and suicidal - as they did in Brokeback Mountain.

    Thanks to Ang Lee, my book is now in 14 countries. Thanks to Ang Lee's beleif in this Gay Man's true memoir, my new book: Palm Trees On The Hudson - the true story of The Mob, Judy Garland & Interior Decorating - (spring 2010) follows the growing up and coming out of a Gay man in the very repressive 1950's & 1960's.

    And because of Taking Woodstock, I will be creating the world's first 3 days of peace and music GLBT festival in 2010 in Key West, Florida.

    90% of the world an USA included, are still miles from giving fair and equal treatment to the GLBT community. Together, we are making major changes.

    Posted by: elliot tiber | Nov 25, 2009 7:34:01 AM

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