How Making Love Changed Us

Screenwriter Barry Sandler discusses the 1982 gay-themed drama, actors who refused to star in it, and its lasting legacy.

BY Jeremy Kinser

July 14 2012 1:28 PM ET

Which other actors did you pursue for the male roles?
Well, I know originally they had offered it to Harrison Ford, and he just wasn’t going to do it. They had offered it to Richard Gere, if I recall. I know Michael Douglas was one actor who actually gave it some thought, serious consideration, and kind of went back and forth, and was very close to committing. Then his people talked him out of it. They were like, “Are you crazy? Kiss another man on the screen? Are you nuts?” That sort of thing. And finally, he backed out. And I think it was at that point, because he had kept us waiting for a long time, and at that point we said, look, just fuck it, let’s just get the best actors we can. Let’s move. And that’s how that came about.

I think Harry was very well cast. He’s magnetic on-screen.
And by the way, those actors were asked to play the Michael Ontkean part. With Harry … well, Harry wasn’t exactly an unknown, because he had done Clash of the Titans, and he had done Studs Lonigan on TV and a couple of other movies. So he wasn’t exactly an unknown, but certainly not a major star at the time. Harry was great. Both of those guys and Kate too. I mean, they were totally committed to making it as real and honest as possible. Harry wanted to know the whole scene, so I would take him out on a tour of West Hollywood bars. And really, he wanted to know how I would wear my watch, which is kind of funny. He was very great. He was great about it.

Did the guys in the bars recognize Harry?
Oh, yeah. Every gay man had seen Clash of the Titans. When they’d come up to him he’d use that old line, “I’m just here doing research.” Michael, on the other hand, didn’t want to go out and do research. He felt that character wouldn’t have known the scene.

I imagine that after the furor over Cruising a couple of years earlier, gay people were anticipating a film like yours.
Oh, my God, there was a lot of anticipation, particularly in the gay community. Every newspaper and magazine from The Advocate to Frontiers and Blue Boy did articles on it. The script had gotten out, and word got out that it was a very positive portrayal. That was considered a breakthrough. People were rooting for it and were eager to see it.

What challenges did Fox face with marketing the film?
This was new territory. No one had explored this theme before, certainly not in a positive way, so the studio was nervous about how to sell it. They had two campaigns — one for the straight community and another for the gay community.  The campaign for the gay community was what it was, they already knew about it. For the straight community, they camouflaged it. They were concerned that people would accept it. They said it without saying it, like “Claire has been married to the same man for either years but suddenly something came between them.” They did everything they could to not say it. I understood their concern. You have to look at where we were as a country then. The marketing was very tricky on this one.

Tags: film

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