Leonardo, Clint and "Historian" Dustin Lance Black on the J EDGAR set
...would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.
Last week we had a very brief chat with Dustin Lance Black, the Oscar winning screenwriter of Milk fame. After that historic success he had the opportunity to direct a picture (What's Wrong With Virginia?) and now he's back with a biographical screenplay for another famous director, Clint Eastwood. After brief introductions, we jumped right into the movie at hand and our conversation in full follows. Lance's sprawling screenplay for J EDGAR leaps back and forth across the decades to chart the entire professional life of the infamous FBI man J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) while perpetually glancing sideways at his notoriously intimate relationship with his right hand man Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). The movie is proving divisive but Oscar buzz, particularly for DiCaprio's baity lead performance in Best Actor, continues.
TOWLEROAD: This is your second feature film biopic of a famous gay American. Will we get a trilogy?
DUSTIN LANCE BLACK: No, You know... no plans in the near future. I'm doing the 'Barefoot Bandit' story on Colton Harris-Moore and then Under the Banner of Heaven after that. So nope. But these two, for me, Milk and J. Edgar were sort of bookends in a way. One is a mirror of the other.
J Edgar being the more cautionary tale?
Yes. I think so [Laughs]. One of them had extraordinary political power. The other one was just trying to get a small piece of it. One came out of the closet and by doing so spread hope. The other one stayed in the closet and spread fear and insecurity.
There is some poetic justic here. J. Edgar Hoover was known for prying into people's personal lives and here you are investigating his. Were you nervous about doing so, given that some people get angry when others speculate about the sexuality of the famous and the deceased.
Well people have been speculating about J. Edgar's sexuality for generations now. People have been saying 'Oh, he ran around in cocktail dresses!' That, to me, didn't ring true and in my research proved not to be true. But also in looking into his record as a heterosexual he failed miserably. And so it becomes quite clear when you look at what he did and didn't do that whether or not he ever consummated it, this was a guy who was not straight.
CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...