Which LGBT Icon Deserves a Biopic?

By Daniel Reynolds

Originally published on Advocate.com July 09 2014 7:30 AM ET

Harvey Milk. Frida Kahlo. Liberace. Increasingly, Hollywood is producing more films about LGBT figures. But Tinseltown has only scratched the surface of stories of those who have made breakthroughs in the LGBT rights movement as well as those who have made major contributions to the spheres of entertainment, fashion, politics, and beyond. To determine who deserves a place on the silver screen, The Advocate asked the experts: the filmmakers whose works are screening at this year’s Outfest, the premier LGBT film festival of Los Angeles, which kicks off Thursday. From biblical figures to closeted movie stars, here are their dream biopic subjects and the actors they envision in these roles.

[RELATED: The Advocate’s Favorite Films of Outfest 2014]

Chely Wright, played by Evan Rachel Wood
“I’d make a biopic about Chely Wright, one of the first out lesbians in country music. I’m fascinated by the socially conservative world of country — the same fan base that practically erased the Dixie Chicks from history for vocally opposing the war in Iraq — and can understand why she felt she had to repress her sexuality for so long. My lead would be Evan Rachel Wood.”

— Joni Lefkowitz is the cowriter-producer of Life Partners and the executive producer of Chasing Life on ABC Family.

Alison Bechdel, played by Jane Adams
“My dream biopic would be a feature adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. It’s one of those books I buy in bulk so I can always have one on hand as a gift — it would be hard to find respect for a person who isn’t deeply moved by that story.  I’d cast Jane Adams to play Alison because she has a great talent for balancing subtle comedy with heartbreaking undertones.”

— Desiree Akhavan is a filmmaker whose work includes Appropriate Behavior (Sundance 2014) and the Web series The Slope.

Alexander the Great, played by Joe Manganiello
“I've always wanted to shoot epic period battle scenes, so I'd love to do a big-budget movie about Alexander the Great starring Joe Manganiello.”

— Alex Kondracke is the director of Girltrash: All Night Long. She was a co-producer on Showtime's The L Word and HBO's Hung. She's currently developing a television show with Annapurna Pictures.

Harry Hay, played by Peter Sarsgaard
“I'd love to direct a biopic about Harry Hay. His founding of the Mattachine Society is most certainly one of the seminal events in modern queer history, directly influencing the gay rights movement as we know it today. Without his work as a pioneer in this arena, I question whether we would be where we are today. He was a complex and controversial figure, but to co-opt and modify the Laurel Thatcher Ulrich quote: ‘Well-behaved queers seldom make history.’ I think Peter Sarsgaard might be an interesting choice to play Harry.”

— Andrew Putschoegl, the director of BFFs, is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and photographer specializing in experimental silent films about the Amish.

Jesus Christ, played by Lee Pace
“According to Paul Verhoeven's book Jesus of Nazareth, about the historical Jesus, the son of God and Lazarus may have been gay lovers. There is a theory that Lazarus was an insurrectionary who was captured and tortured by the Romans, and when, close to death, he made his way back home to his spiritual leader, Jesus nursed him back to health, hence the myth of Lazarus being brought back from the dead. It would make an epic love story. “

— Bruce LaBruce is a Toronto-based filmmaker, photographer, writer, and artist. His latest films, Gerontophilia and Pierrot Lunaire, debuted at the Venice Film Festival and the Berlinale, respectively. 

Alec Mapa, played by Honey Boo Boo
“I’d make Talented Colon The Alec Mapa Story, with the word ‘colon’ spelled out, not the punctuation mark. Alec is the Pinoy Le Pétomane. It would star Honey Boo Boo as young Alec and use repurposed clips from Weng Weng films for Alec’s later life.”

—Andrea James is a self-described “tranny filmmaker and activist.” She is the director of Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy.

Bayard Rustin, played by Dwight Ewell
“I would love to make a movie about Bayard Rustin, who helped Martin Luther-King embrace nonviolence and was set to be one the leading lights of the civil rights movement, until his homosexuality made him ‘too risky’ a figurehead. I would love to play him myself, but Dwight Ewell from Stonewall, Chasing Amy, and Punks would probably be better.”

— Rikki Beadle-Blair is proud to have directed and/or written many gay features including Stonewall, Blackbird, Fit, Bashment, and KickOff. He is the winner of two Outfest awards, and his new film, Free, is playing in the festival this year.


James Dean, played by Tanner Cohen
“I'd love to make a biopic about James Dean. While Dean's handsome, confident image graces the walls of many a straight American college student, most audiences don't realize that Dean was actively bisexual and had relationships with both women and men. Dean's boyfriend at the time of shooting Rebel Without a Cause, Jack Simmons, was passed over for the part of Plato, Dean's sidekick, as he was thought to be too effeminate.

“As for who would play Dean, that's a tricky question — I think I'd lean toward casting an unknown. To play an icon like Dean, you need to be a new, fresh face. However, of Hollywood's current young crop of actors, there are two who might fit the bill: Max Theriot or Tanner Cohen. Apparently Cohen is openly gay, which I think is always a plus when casting an LGBT character.”

— Tom Dolby is the writer and codirector of Last Weekend, starring Patricia Clarkson, Zachary Booth, Joseph Cross, and Judith Light. He lives with his husband and two daughters in Los Angeles. Find more information at LastWeekendFilm.com.

Abraham Lincoln, played by Matthew McConaughey
“I would make a movie about Lincoln. Tony Kushner’s version was marvelous, but where were all the nude scenes? My version would be called Nude Abraham Lincoln and would star Matthew McConaughey.”

Filmmaker Madeleine Olnek has had four films at Sundance, including Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same, which is viewable on Netflix. She is the the writer and director of the upcoming Outfest film The Foxy Merkins, an Independent Spirit award nominee and a lesbian hooker comedy.