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Lynn Shelton Dies; Bi Director of Little Fires Everywhere, Queer Films

Lynn Shelton

Lynn Shelton, the bisexual director of Little Fires Everywhere and several queer-themed movies, has died.

Shelton died Friday of a blood disorder, Variety reports. She was 54.

She directed four of the eight episodes of Little Fires Everywhere, which aired this year on Hulu. Based on the popular 2017 novel by Celeste Ng, it tells the story the clash of the seemingly perfect Richardson family and the mysterious Warren family in a suburban town. Reese Witherspoon starred as Elena Richardson and Kerry Washington as Mia Warren in the LGBTQ+-inclusive drama.

Shelton first gained fame as the director of Humpday, about two straight male friends who decide to make a gay erotic film together. It premiered in 2009 at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Independence. Magnolia Pictures picked it up for theatrical distribution, and it received critical praise. Roger Ebert, for instance, called it “funny, yes, but also observant and thought-provoking.” The film was entirely improvised by the actors, who included Shelton herself. She embraced the method for other movies as well.

She also directed Your Sister’s Sister, in which a man grieving his brother’s death comes between his best friend and her lesbian sister. The Advocate described the 2012 film as “a gentle comedy marked by sharp, observant dialogue and naturalistic performances.” It starred Marc Duplass as the grieving man, Emily Blunt as his friend Iris, and Rosemarie DeWitt as the lesbian sister, Hannah.

Her most recent film, 2019’s Sword of Trust, featured a female couple, played by Jillian Bell and Michaela Watkins, who inherit a Civil War sword from one woman’s grandfather. In addition, she directed two episodes of the 2019 Apple TV+ series Dickinson, which included a same-sex romance for poet Emily Dickinson.

Shelton rejected the idea of making films for big studios, even though she was once approached about directing the Marvel superhero movie Black Widow. She preferred the independence that went with low-budget filmmaking, and she wrote the screenplays for almost all her movies.

“It’s very easy to have creative freedom when you’re making movies for a very small amount of money,” she told Variety in 2014. “The more money involved, the more complicated it becomes because there are people involved who want to make sure they’re not throwing their cash down a big hole.”

She did direct several episodes of television shows, including The Mindy Project, Mad Men, GLOW, New Girl, and Fresh Off the Boat.

In a 2012 interview with Out, she described herself as “a shy bisexual.” “There was a time where I had this fantasy that, if it weren’t for society’s taboos, anybody could fall in love with anybody,” she said. “I’m kind of a shy bisexual, so I felt myself crushing on all kinds of people, including gay men.”

Shelton was in a relationship with comedian Marc Maron at the time of her death, according to Variety, and had been married to actor Kevin Seal from 2011 to 2019. In addition to Maron, her survivors include a son, Milo, from her marriage to Seal, and her parents, two brothers, and a sister.

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