Son Of Sirk: LOVE, SIMON’s Greg Berlanti Is Bringing Us A Rock Hudson Biopic
Rock Hudson is one of my favorite actors.
In fact, there are times where I wonder if he's the man I love watching on screen the most. Undeniably gorgeous and sporting a baritone gift from the Gods for a voice, Hudson evolved from Saturday matinee idol (in Technicolor Westerns such as George Sherman's Tomahawk) to an Academy Award nominee (for George Stevens' Giant) to weirdo staple (if you've never seen Roger Vadim's Pretty Maids All In a Row, dear God stop whatever you're doing right now and watch that bizarre masterpiece).
Under the tutelage of legendary auteur Douglas Sirk, Hudson turned in some of the finest work American movies have ever seen. The duo's string of beautiful melodramas - including Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows, and Written On the Wind - reclaimed the so-called "woman's weepie" and used that trashy subgenre to produce inspiring works of art, commenting on societal prisons while offering up some true hot house thrills.
Hudson credited Sirk (who viewed the broad-chinned star as a glob of clay he could mold into whatever he wanted) with helping him blossom as a performer, as the two developed a father/son relationship that lasted until the actor's death in 1985. Another reccomendation: Sirk's stark, B&W William Faulkner adaptation The Tarnished Angels, which ends with Hudson's boozy reporter Burke Devlin delivering a fiery monologue that will reduce you to emotional rubble.
Then there's the legendary off-screen history, with Hudson being an openly gay man among friends (his sexuality being one of Hollywood's worst-kept secrets at the time), and the industry scrambling to keep their golden boy straight in the eyes of the viewing public (a ploy to preserve box office receipts). After a tabloid report threatened to out Hudson in 1955, his manager arranged a marriage with his secretary, Phyllis Gates. Gates may or may not have attempted to blackmail Hudson about his homosexuality, as there was also an article later published (in The Advocate) claiming that she was actually a lesbian who knew Hudson was gay when they married. In short, there were too many legends to print.
Hudson's long list of lovers included Psycho star Anthony Perkins, and the actor may have even "married" Gomer Pyle himself, Jim Nabors, in secret. For Hudson, sexuality was a cage. Before his death, the beefcake became the first high-profile celebrity to announce that he had AIDS, and fought until his last breath to find a worldwide cure. And as Mark Rappaport’s odd cinematic essay Rock Hudson’s Home Movies argues, Hudson’s sexuality was always there up on the silver screen to behold. We were just too dumb to recognize it most times.
This is all a long-winded preamble to the news that CW mastermind and Love, Simon director Greg Berlanti has signed on to helm an untitled biopic about Hudson's life. Obviously, Berlanti's got some experience in LGBTQ movie-making - not to mention a gay man himself, having married soccer star Robbie Rogers last year - and understands the importance of Hudson's place in queer cinema history. The project will be based on Mark Griffin's book All That Heaven Allows: A Biography of Rock Hudson (which releases next month), and is still reportedly in search of a writer.
The only thing I ask of this movie: don't be a YA-styled adaptation. Don't cast some Riverdale star or make it cutesy. Hudson was an artist who was important to a lot of people, and one suspects he'd be cool with a "warts and all" treatment that delves into the more difficult aspects of his existence. He certainly wasn't shy about who he was or the things that he stood for.
Now, who the hell do you even cast here? That's the next major question. This picture could be a cinephile's playground, if handled the right way. Personally, I always wanted to see Henry Gibson play the filmmaker, but since he passed in 2009, that dream will never come true. Sound off in the comments below with your own choices.