Michael Glatze, a former gay journalist and activist who now identifies as straight, is grateful to James Franco for bringing his story to the screen in the new film I Am Michael.
The film has been part of a “gigantic healing process,” Glatze told Openly Jake video blogger Jake Reynolds after hosting a screening in advance of its Sundance Film Festival premiere last week. “We’ve been finding common ground, meeting people like you guys [Reynolds and gay activist Ted Jackson], and it’s just like life is starting up again,” he said. “It’s almost like a new life, and I thanked James Franco for that.”
Glatze sent Franco, who plays him in the film and is a producer on the project, an email thanking him for his interest in the project and being the “spark” to that healing process, he said. Franco and out filmmaker Gus Van Sant, who is an executive producer of the movie, had read an article about Glatze and decided his story would make a good film. In the 2011 New York Times Magazine article, Benoit Denizet-Lewis, who had once worked with Glatze on a gay publication, described meeting with Glatze after the latter had renounced his homosexuality. Denizet-Lewis, a former Advocate contributor, has a small role in the film.
Glatze said the movie allowed him a reunion with his former partner, called “Bennett” (not his real name, according to Glatze, and not to be confused with Benoit Denizet-Lewis). Glatze and his wife, Rebekah, enjoyed “hanging out” with “Bennett” recently, he told Reynolds. He said he felt a kind of “grace” saying to him, “These are people, more than anything else.” Out actor Zachary Quinto plays “Bennett” in the film, adapted from Denizet-Lewis’s article by Justin Kelly and Stacey Miller; Kelly also directed. Emma Roberts portrays Rebekah.
Glatze told Reynolds he sees the message of the film as “be yourself,” whoever that might be. The famously gay-friendly Franco, for his part, recently said the filmmakers took an “even-handed, nonjudgmental approach.”
In the video, though, after concluding the interview, Reynolds faced the camera and wondered if Glatze’s story tells viewers they can “pray away the gay.” He read a statement Glatze made to Denizet-Lewis: “I don’t see people as gay anymore. I don’t see you as gay. ... God creates us heterosexual. We may get other ideas in our head about what we are, and I certainly did, but that doesn’t mean they’re the truth.”
Glatze and his wife are now pastors of a small church in Wyoming, and Glatze has withdrawn from any role as a spokesman for the discredited “ex-gay” movement, although he still apparently considers homosexuality a sin. In the few years he did play such a role, he alienated even some of his conservative Christian brethren with his antigay statements and a “racist rant” against President Obama, noted Wayne Besen of LGBT activist group Truth Wins Out in a 2013 press release. In the release, Besen quoted a column Glatze wrote that year calling homosexuality “a direct raping of the relationship between Man and God.”
As for the film, some critics say it doesn’t endorse Glatze’s viewpoint, or any viewpoint, for that matter. It “strives for a certain level of impartiality, making for a Rorschach blot in which one can look at Michael’s journey as tragic and absurd or heroic, depending on what you already think about homosexuality and/or fundamentalist Christianity,” wrote The Wrap’s Alonso Duralde, a former Advocate arts and entertainment editor. In The Hollywood Reporter, Boyd van Hoeij added, “The screenplay doesn’t portray the story in simple terms of good or evil.”
Watch Reynolds’s interview of Michael and Rebekah Glatze below.