Nora Ephron: Stirring the Pot

Julie & Julia director-screenwriter-producer Nora Ephron addresses Julia Child's longtime homophobia and tackles the "tricky question" facing today's closeted gay actors.




Out directors Don Roos and Todd Holland recently advised gay actors to remain closeted for the sake of their careers at OutFest. As one of Hollywood's most celebrated directors, what are your thoughts on the subject?
Well, I think people should do exactly what they want to, but I would never judge anyone, especially an actor, for staying in the closet. Getting cast in a movie is hard enough without throwing in the additional possibility that someone would turn you down because you were known to be gay. But it's no question that if more actors were willing to come out, then it would make life easier for everyone. So it's a very tricky question. It's hard to tell somebody what they ought to do about something that's essentially private in a real way but needs to be public for political reasons. You know, I love seeing that Ellen DeGeneres, whom I love, is now a spokesperson for, what, a moisturizing cream? I don't even know what it's for, but she's basically being used in the same way they use whoever those other models are. She managed to get through a time where coming out seems to have cost her, and now it just doesn't matter.

Mainstream romantic comedies so often feature a flamboyant "gay confidant" role. Have you purposely avoided that sassy cliché?
I was always very conscious of that. And aside from the romantic comedy gay confidant, every so often you see a straight adventure movie where there's an unbelievably stereotyped gay hairdresser who has some sort of hissy fit. At one point, after seeing Con Air, I actually called [producer] Jerry Bruckheimer and yelled at him about it because it really made me nuts. Gay kids have a hard enough time growing up without seeing this kind of overdrawn character. There's no affection in those things; it's just cheap writing.

After the success of gay-themed dramas like Brokeback Mountain and Milk, is America ready for a straightforward, mainstream gay rom-com? I don't really count 1997's In & Out because it was so mired in the coming-out process.
I guess you don't count Brüno either? [Laughs] I think if you make the right funny movie, people will be ready for it, whatever it is.

Would you please write and direct one for us?
I'd absolutely consider it, especially if I could find a story that really worked. But there's absolutely no question that it would not be a major studio picture. However many people you might be able to get to come see it, it would be hard to get one of the big studios to believe that there was a wide audience for it — until one does get made and gets the audience.

Who'd you cast as your lead gay couple?
[Long pause] George Clooney and somebody.

Tags: film