Friday, November 4, 2011

J. Edgar Hoover, Homosexual?

Leonardo DiCaprio, right, as Hoover, with Armie Hammer as Tolson
When Bill Baker heard that Dustin Lance Black was writing the screenplay "J. Edgar," he was concerned. Mr. Black was the same guy who had written "Milk," starring Sean Penn as a gay activist and politician.

"I knew he was a good writer, but I also know the theme of his projects," says Mr. Baker, who is a former assistant director of the FBI, director of the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation and former chief of the Motion Picture Association. "So it was with some trepidation that we watched how the movie progressed."

The private life of Hoover, who built the FBI into a law enforcement powerhouse and used political acumen and sometimes ruthless tactics to survive eight presidents, has always been mysterious.

He never married and lived with his mother until she died. Tales of a romantic relationship between Hoover and his longtime colleague and confidante, Clyde Tolson, have swirled for decades, but there's no direct evidence. The film—not to reveal plot details here—suggests that Hoover was gay.

Mr. Black says he believes that Hoover felt his mother's disapproval that he might be a "daffodil" (slang at the time) and the repression of his sexuality helped fuel his runaway ambition: "If you take away that ability to love, to have a family and to do so openly, it's certainly going to influence things like empathy," says Mr. Black. He theorizes that Mr. Hoover substituted romantic love with a craving for power.

Director Clint Eastwood, generally of conservative bent but a fierce defender of gay marriage, had no problems with the script, says Robert Lorenz, a producer on the film and longtime Eastwood collaborator.

J. Edgar Hoover
Hearing about the direction the movie was headed from his Hollywood connections, Mr. Baker helped draft a letter to the filmmakers, citing "a monumental distortion." The Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI also weighed in. "We objected to the inference that he was homosexual but didn't want the letter to be inferring we were opposed to gay relationships," says spokesman Craig L. Dotlo.

Mr. Dotlo says former members of Hoover's security detail say they never saw any indication of a romance between Tolson and Hoover. "Is it possible that they could have had a closet relationship? Sure. Our point is that there's no empirical evidence."

Mr. Eastwood and Mr. Lorenz wrote back: "Our main interest is the fascinating role Mr. Hoover played in American history." They added that they didn't intend to portray "an open homosexual relationship" between Hoover and Tolson.

Could the talk of his sexuality hurt the film, as many thought it did with Oliver Stone's "Alexander," about the ancient Macedonian conqueror?

Warner Bros. is soft-pedaling the theme in ads. "It is a polarizing concept," says Sue Kroll, the studio's marketing chief. "We're not hiding it, but we're not using it as an overt tool."

Says Mr. Lorenz: "It would be a shame if people thought it was only about that. Nobody knows really what went on in his personal life. I think Lance has provided as plausible an idea as anybody could. That's what makes Hoover human in this film."

SOURCE: "Will Audiences Care Whether Hoover Was Gay?," WSJ.com, By Rachel Dodes.


J. Edgar - In theaters November 9

5 comments:

silvereagle said...

"Nobody knows really what went on in his personal life."

And this is as it should be. And it is the same with the celebrities of today...Nobody knows unless they make it public.

A good article!

Jay M. said...

I'm looking forward to seeing the movie, the FBI, CIA, etc. have fascinated me for a long time.

More people should take a page from his book...live your life however you choose, but don't splash it all over the newspapers!

Peace <3
Jay

Jack Scott said...

Thanks for posting this blog piece. I'm not a huge fan of Leonardo DiCaprio and had been wondering if I wanted to see J Edgar.

I think after reading your blog, I do want to see it. I'm glad to hear the picture leaves the question of Mr. Hoover's sexuality very much the subject of speculation. That is where it really is and to portray that is good.

I very much enjoy your blog. I discovered it through some of the blogs that are linked to my blog. I enjoy your "tongue-in-cheek, sometimes very serious" approach to the life we all lead.

Jack Scott

Dean said...

I seem to remember that right after Hoover's death there were newspaper reports about him being a cross-dresser. Was there any substsantiation of those reports?

Will said...

Dean, I have read those reports, too. Also, Hoover was buried next to Tolson.