Can Lee Daniels and Paul Feig make big gay rom-coms and superhero films?
Rupert Everett had his breakthrough moment, commercially speaking, when he co-starred in "My Best Friend's Wedding" and stole every single scene he was in. It's a familiar story… someone has a big moment in a supporting role in a comedy and suddenly studios start developing material specifically for them to see if they can carry films on their own. Right now, Melissa McCarthy's having her moment like that, thanks to "Bridesmaids," and so far, thanks to the box-office of "Identity Thief" and "The Heat," it seems like it's working.
For Everett, the summer of 1997 was the moment when it all seemed possible, and one of the biggest projects that was developed for him was what Sony and Everett excitedly described as "a gay James Bond movie." He'd been working before that, and anyone who saw "Another Country" or "Dellamorte Dellamore" already knew what he was capable of, but "My Best Friend's Wedding" was a monster hit, and because Everett played a gay character in the film, that became the hook in trying to find him a big movie to do by himself. I'm not sure who worked on it with him, but at one point at least, Everett was writing it for himself.
At some point, though, Everett decided that he had made the wrong approach, and said that if he ever played James Bond, he'd play him straight. He's spoken about how frustrated he's been over the years, and how even after making a breakthrough playing a gay character, it still seemed to be a real obstacle in him getting anything made.
Have things changed? I'm not sure. I know that we've got Harry Potter starring in an indie movie about Allen Ginsberg next week, complete with some fairly graphic gay sex scenes, and we've got guys like James Franco who seem to have developed a sort of "is he or isn't he?" vibe that is a viable media character right now, and certainly there's more of a gay presence in pop culture than ever before. Is now the moment to start refiguring traditional genre ideas through a queer filter in a mainstream way?
Lee Daniels appears to think he can pull it off. He is sort of spoiling the hook of his movie in his conversations about it, but since it's his movie, I guess he thinks it's okay to do that. I don't feel bad then seeing that people have reduced the idea to "Lee Daniels wants to make a gay superhero movie" headlines. For comic readers, that's not the newest idea, but comic book movies haven't really done it yet. There is something very different about seeing something play out in live action, and when Daniels starts talking about doing this as a big lurid motion picture with Alex Pettyfer as half of a gay couple who also just happen to be superheroes, he's coming off the biggest commercial hit of his life and he could actually make it happen.
Meanwhile, Paul Feig has started dropping clues about a romantic comedy he wants to make about an average-looking guy, played by "Saturday Night Live" performer John Milhiser, who ends up in a relationship with a stunningly handsome man, only to find he can't cope with the difference between them. And while he's not committed to the film yet, Feig evidently likes the idea of Channing Tatum playing that lead, and I expect at this point that if Feig really wants to cast Tatum in the role, there's a good chance he'll get him. In the Cinemablend piece that broke the news about the project, it also seems that Feig was the one who introduced Milhiser to Lorne Michaels in the first place so that he'd end up on SNL.
Even if these two films do get made, it still doesn't negate Everett's complaint, which is that there seems to be plenty of room for straight actors to play gay characters, but very little room for openly gay actors to build their own starring vehicles. Do you think the industry has changed more that Everett gave it credit for as recently as three years ago, or do these new projects feel like half-measures at this point?