FILM / Rushes

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The Independent Culture
The Mayor of Castro Street's troubles continue. Its director, Gus Van Sant (Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho), has parted company with producer Oliver Stone's biopic on the life of Harvey Milk, the gay member of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors assassinated by a right-wing colleague.

The material has obvious dramatic potential: Milk's killer got off by pleading temporary insanity caused by a sugar-rich diet (now enshrined in law as the infamous 'Twinkie' defence). Often cited as Stone's apologia to America's gay community for the 'negative stereotypes' offered by JFK and his screenplay for Midnight Express, the film has a history of dropping out of Stone's busy itinerary. The production has long been dogged by script difficulties - friends of Milk have demanded the right to vet the various drafts - and casting problems.

Established Hollywood stars are usually leery of playing gay, despite William Hurt's Oscar for Kiss of the Spiderwoman and Tom Hanks' HIV-positive role in Jonathan Demme's forthcoming Philadelphia. Still, Robin Williams has expressed an interest in the lead, while James Woods has actively campaigned for it; insiders say his appearance as Fascist closet queen Ray Cohn in Citizen Cohn may have ruled him out of the running. Stone is reported to be holding out for a star to give the commerically hazardous project a measure of box office insurance (just as some observers claim his selection of the gay Van Sant was motivated by the need to pacify homosexual critics).

Ironically, after years on the back burner, Van Sant cites a tight shooting schedule and perennial screenplay gremlins as his reason for walking. Cynics assert that the suddenly 'tight shooting schedule' is due to the surprise appearance of numerous gay-related movies on the Hollywood horizon. Apart from Philadelphia - Demme's apologia for Silence of the Lambs' campy Buffalo Bill character - the near future offers Joey Breaker (hot showbiz agent nurses dying gay man), Coppola's The Cure (Aids remedy action), Streisand's film of Larry Kramer's stage hit The Normal Heart and HBO's And the Band Played On.

The latter is already making news for the firing of its director, Roger Spottiswoode, allegedly for refusing to dilute the screenplay's pointed attacks on the American medical establishment's indifference during the early days of the Aids epidemic. Perhaps the title led HBO to believe it had purchased a musical.

TRASH IMITATES LIFE

If you were contemplating a remake of the Cary Grant-Deborah Kerr weepie An Affair to Remember, itself a remake of the Charles Boyer-Irene Dunne Love Affair, whom would you cast as the sexy middle-aged playboy and the vibrant young beauty he falls for and finally settles down with? Having wracked his brain, the director Glenn Gordon Caron decided to play against type and hand the parts to the sexy, middle-aged playboy Warren Beatty and vibrant young beauty Annette Bening. The defensive scriptwriter Robert Towne says: 'I think it's fair game for an actor to use his persona in the service of an illusion. That doesn't mean what we'll see is a piece of autobiography.' It doesn't?

TRASH IMITATES LIFE II

Arnold Schwarzenegger on his wife Maria Shriver's appearance in The Last Action Hero as his bad-tempered, hectoring spouse: 'Just a repeat of what she does at home.'

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