Aidan Quinn appeared on the cover of People magazine, only to have rumors fly that he actually had contracted HIV and died. “And there was this flurry from long-lost people I had never heard from in so long,” he says, “from high school and old agents calling me and my current agent.”
At the 1986 Emmy Awards, the cast and crew of An Early Frost sat together and watched 10 out of 14 statuettes go to others. (The film won for sound mixing, editing, cinematography, and outstanding writing in a miniseries or special.)
“In retrospect. I just don’t think the Hollywood community was ready for it,” Erman says. “It was too soon. We all knew we should have won. We all went out afterwards and got drunk.”
Though he received a nomination as best actor, Quinn said his role as Pierson “didn’t translate into being an A-list [actor] or being considered for top-notch projects in leading roles. At all. And I thought it would help.” Nonetheless, An Early Frost still brings Quinn public praise a quarter century later.
“Someone will approach me and grab my hand and say, ‘Thank you for doing it,’” he says. “‘You don’t know how much that meant to me and my family or helped me come out’ or whatever.”
John Erman went on to direct more television films and would revisit the theme of AIDS again, in 1991’s Our Sons, starring Ann-Margret and Julie Andrews, and 2004’s The Blackwater Lightship, with Angela Lansbury and Dianne Wiest. Yet An Early Frost stands as a career turning point.
“Once I finished that movie and once the movie was received the way it was eventually received, I realize that I always had to follow my instincts,” Erman says.
Quinn cites Frost as his most socially important work: “That’s so rare that you can do a film that actually does make a difference.”