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

This was written pretty much prior to the AIDS epidemic, but there’s a scene in which Michael’s character examines Harry that always makes me think it’s going in a different direction.
Interesting. You’re looking at it from the benefit of hindsight. I remember around late ’81 or early’82 and the film had been finished at that point, this strange disease that was affecting people in New York. AIDS didn’t really become widely known until late ’82, and Making Love was released in February 1982. We were just not aware of it at the time. I can see looking back now that that scene has that eerie undercurrent.

You came out publicly in an interview with The Advocate around the time of the film’s release.
Another thing I decided was that if I was going to write this movie, I would also have the responsibility of speaking for it and going public and saying that it comes from a point of truth. Once I made up my mind to do it. I made up my mind to say this film is very personal to me. I felt it was important to give the film credibility and legitimacy. I felt it was important at that time in changing people’s perceptions of what a gay person was. In 1982 most people thought of a gay person as a queeny hairdresser or the butt of a joke. I felt that if I went on TV, and I was on the Today show and 20/20 and Fox sent me around the country to do talk shows, that if people just saw an average, ordinary person who said I’m gay and I’m happy and I’m proud to be who I am. I felt that if I could present myself as a gay man, people might say, “He’s not so threatening, maybe he’s not someone to be afraid of and condemn.” I felt that was incumbent on me at that time because no one else was doing it and I had the movie to promote.

Did anyone try to convince you not to?
Some people asked if I was crazy and said no one would ever hire me. But that’s the risk you take. I was never going to write a Bruce Willis action movie anyway. I just bit the bullet and did it. My career may have suffered in some quarters, but I was fine after that. I still got movies made after that and got hired for jobs. So looking back, I’m very glad I did it.

Tags: film

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