Is Clint Eastwood Planning to De-Gay the J Edgar Hoover Biopic?

Director Clint Eastwood tells the Wall Street Journal that he was interested in directing a forthcoming biopic of J Edgar Hoover specifically because the screenplay doesn't address FBI founder Hoover's rumored homosexuality.

WSJ: Eastwood

The Hoover screenplay was written by Dustin Lance Black, the Oscar-winning writer of the 2008 film "Milk" about the life and 1978 murder of gay-rights activist and San Francisco City Councilman Harvey Milk. When I ask if the screenplay addresses reports by former FBI employees that Hoover was a cross-dresser and perhaps a closeted homosexual, Mr. Eastwood says not really. In fact, what attracted him to the screenplay was the fact that it "didn't quite go down that road."

Eastwood's statement appears to directly contradict something screenwriter Black said back in March to the NY Post:

The movie will follow Hoover’s career, from founding the FBI in 1935 throughout his long tenure as director, but what many people want to know is if "Hoover" (working title) will address some of the more colorful aspects of his life. You know, like the rumors that he was a closeted homosexual and avid crossdresser.

"Well, look who you're talking to," Dustin told PopWrap with a smirk. "I wrote the script … what do you think?"

And Social Network star Armie Hammer, who has been cast opposite Leonardo DiCaprio as Clyde Tolson, Hoover's secret lover, told E! last week that the script deals with it directly:

Said Hammer of the script: Armie_hammer

"It's not kissing scene—it's a ton of kissing scenes…I'm so excited to work with Clint, and from what I hear, he's not the type of director who has a ton of rehearsals and takes. I think we're just sort of thrown in there and have to make it happen….I actually just met [Leo] for the first time Saturday at the DGA Awards. Sure, we talked business…He's a talented actor. I'm not nervous or afraid of it being awkward. The script is great. The scenes are in there for a reason. I'm really excited….Yeah, you hear that, Leo? Pucker up!"

The blog Band of Thebes asks some relevant questions:

Could the writer of The Journey of Jared Price, Pedro, Milk, and the narrator of8: The Mormon Proposition really have wanted to explore Hoover's life and ignore his closeted pathology? Or did Eastwood degay it? Or is he engaging in publicity spin, downplaying that part of the film so it won't be perceived as a gay movie? 

Inquiring minds want to know.

UPDATE: Black responds.

"To think that somehow you’re going to a make a movie about somebody like J. Edgar and you’re not going to learn what’s in his heart, that’s just not going to happen in a script that I write…It’s unfounded [the idea that the movie is being de-gayed.]"

"I think [Eastwood is] referring to the fact that he’s not going into the stereotypes of who Hoover was because they are clownish, they are comic book and they reek of homophobia and he’s not going to do that. I agree with that. It won’t be going into anything that is a gay stereotype, especially that was used in that day to bash gay men. It won’t be going into that because it’s not accurate and it’s not true. It will deal with sexuality in a far more human, realistic way."


  1. jackson says

    Well, once a screenwriter gives over copyright of his script to a producer/studio, they become free to do with it as they please. Armie may have only read an earlier version of the script.

  2. Mike says

    Andy, you are really sensationalizing here.
    You’re taking a big leap here interpreting Clint’s partial quote (“didn’t quite go down that road”) as meaning that he’s “interested in directing [the film] specifically because the screenplay doesn’t address FBI founder Hoover’s rumored homosexuality.”

  3. says

    “Didn’t quite” is the operative term. Clearly it touches on it in some way. Clearyl he didn’t want to make a movie that deals solely with the Hoover-Tolsen relationship.

    Moreover, while we’re all quite sure there was an affair none of us has so much as the slightest idea of what it might ohve been like.

    Put The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover on your Netflix queque.

  4. Paul Freitag says

    I agree with David Ehrenstein, but Larry Cohen’s The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover isn’t available on DVD.

    I’m sure the film addresses it, but it’s not central. Which is fine — that’s not what a J. Edgar Hoover biopic should be about.

  5. fern says

    I’ve hated Eastwood ever since seeing Mystic River. That film, imo, justifies gay bashing by the way it justifies the murder of a gay man, who is seen making out with a younger man in a park, by describing this as “child molestation”. I belive Eastwood has a much younger wife (surprise, surprise), I wonder if he applies his own logic to himself.

    He also looked like he was going to throw up when presenting best picture to brokeback mountain at the globes some years back.

    He probably chose Edgar Hoover as it would be another way to demonize a gay man.

  6. Sarina says

    Fern, have you forgotten about “Midnight in the Garden of Good And Evil”, which Clint Eastwood directed, and where one of the main stars is a drag-queen?
    Or “Play Misty For Me”, where Donna Mills’s best friend is a gay man. By the way, I read an interview Clint Eastwood did for “The Advocate” (I think) years ago and he came off as very gay-friendly. I don’t believe he will de-gay the film. I think he only meant that the film will not entirely focus on J. Edgar Hoover being gay.

  7. says

    Eastwood’s an over-rated hack whose films are as useless and empty as any ever made. Any expectation that an Eastwood film about Hoover would be of any interest at all is unfounded.

    On the other hand, I have to ask: is there any real evidence at all that Hoover and Tolson were actually lovers? Actual documentary evidence rather than hearsay?

  8. Joe says

    I don’t think he means he is going to “de-gay,” but means it is not only going to be about Hoover’s personal struggles and his life as a gay man. Rather, I think the focus will be on his career, with his personal life (and characters like Armie Hammer) filling out the story and enhancing the professional drama.

  9. says

    Regardless of whether Eastwood is “gay friendly” or not, the basic problem for those who would demand that he portray Hoover as gay is that there has been no proof he was…OR was gay and sexually acted upon it OR was gay and DIDN’T sexually act upon it.

    I “believe” the latter is more likely, and the infamous Right Wing publicly closeted queen Roy Cohn allegedly said something to the effect that Hoover was too hung up to have any kind of sex life. He also plays a major role in the most often quoted “proof” of Hoover’s alleged crossdressing, one of the gay-related stories, drenched in homophobic fantasies including Hoover abusing young blond boys AND the Bible, debunked in the Wikipedia article about Hoover and elsewhere.

    BUT despite the fact that some widely believed assertions such as that he and Tolsen are buried side-by-side are easily disprovable [unless the gravestone bearing Tolsen’s name yards from Hoover’s family plot rests over empty ground], no serious movie about his life could leave out the speculation about the two any more than it could leave out what is undisputed about them, e.g., that the “lifelong bachelors” were constant companions on and off the job for 40 years, riding to and from work together each day, taking their meals and vacations together, that Tolsen inherited the bulk of Hoover’s estate, etc. And, yes, all of those truths could still exist between two exclusively heterosexually oriented men.

    Further, no serious movie about him could leave out how much the subject of OTHER people’s homosexuality played a role in the history of the FBI which is, of course, until his death, Hoover’s history, too.
    From raiding a gay brothel in New York City in 1942 to harassing the publishers of the gay magazine “ONE” in the early 50s after they wrote of Hoover’s possible gaiety [“We’ve got to get these bastards,” a note from Hoover to Tolsen allegedly found in the FBI file on the group reads] to harassing gay government employees during the McCarthy era [McCarthy himself allegedly gay, and definitely aided by Cohn] to demanding gay movement icon Frank Kameny stop sending Hoover copies of his DC Mattachine newsletter in the 60s to providing Nixon’s right hand thug with a list of gay reporters he asked for in the 70s.

    As Towleroad reported, no less than the superstar Leonardo DiCaprio recently personally visited Kameny, along with Black, to discuss his experiences with the man DiCaprio will play. While lots of research never makes it into a given film, that’s at least encouraging. And, of course, DiCaprio has played gay before, in “Total Eclipse” and gay-for-pay in “Basketball Diaries.”

  10. BillyBoy says

    Gay scholars have been in the lead in stating that claims that Hoover was gay have no basis in fact and are in fact rooted in the same guilt-by-association and innuendo that Hoover used to tag people. See especially David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (University of Chicago Press, 2004)

  11. Jack M says

    Please wake up! Eastwood is not pro-gay and doesn’t want those values reflected in his movies. This movie will not be the one we would like to see done.

  12. Bruno says

    @Jack M: Have you seen all of Eastwood’s movies? He’s far from anti-gay, so research before you speak.

  13. jaragon says

    Eastwood is a classic studio director- one of the few men who still knows how to make traditional narrative cinema.

  14. GregV says

    We can be pretty sure that Hoover was closeting basic aspects of his sexuality. But I tend to suspect the rumors of anyone from the 1970’s (let alone the ’30’s when he started at the FBI) being a “cross-dresser and possible homosexual.”

    The problem is that back then, there were no honest public discussions of sexuality issues and most people were extremely confused about the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity (many still are, especially in some social circles and in some regions).

    Most cross-dressers are straight and most gay men are not cross-dressers, nor are they transgendered.

    Back then, learning that a straight man was cross-dressing would have immediately resulted in rumors that he was gay. Likewise, learning that a man was gay resulted in baseless assumptions that he wanted to imitate or be a woman.

    When Billy Crystal played a gay character in Soap in 1977, the natural direction the show’s writers went with was his desire for a sex-change operation.

    We’d have to assume that false rumors of homosexuality would have circulated about any straight man known to be a cross-dresser in the ’50’s. If there’s evidence he was one and rumor that he was the other, I don’t think the rumors should be any surprise.