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Brokeback phenomenon ripples throughout Hollywood

Long in development films get new lease on life thanks to Oscar winning film

March 10, 2006

Anne Hathaway, Ang Lee, Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal
HOLLYWOOD — Though Brokeback Mountain may have missed out on Best Picture honors at the Academy Awards ceremony, Hollywood insiders say the gay-cowboy romance may have more impact on Hollywood than any other of this year's nominees.

The film has already taken in an estimated $130 million worldwide, nearly 10 times its budget, and it�s expected that more gay-themed films and projects about gay characters that have long drifted in development may suddenly see the light of day.

Brokeback tells people who are risk-phobic that you can get good actors to appear in your film and you can make money,� novelist Peter Lefcourt, who is attempting to revive one such gay project, told the Hollywood Reporter. �If they're convinced of that, they'll finance the movie.�

Author Patricia Neil Warren�s ground-breaking 1974 novel The Front Runner, about a track coach's affair with a team member, has been bouncing around Hollywood for more than 30 years.

The novel has sold more than 10 million copies, but the film version has languished since Paul Newman first optioned it for a year in 1975. Since then, a series of producers have held the rights, which returned to Warren three years ago.

�People in the industry look at gay-themed films as low budget, but the problem with The Front Runner is it's set at the Olympic games,� said Warren, who told the Hollywood Reporter she�s been offered budgets of $2 million or less for the project. �That would reduce the story to one little college track meet and the love scene,� she said.

Warren said she�s holding out for a Brokeback–size $13 million – $15 million budget. Now, post-Brokeback success, she says she is getting the most interest she's seen in more than 32 years.

�As the box office figures for Brokeback grow, we get more calls," she said. Two other projects long in the development stage, including a biopic of slain San Francisco Mayor Harvey Milk and an adaptation of Lefcourt's 1992 novel The Dreyfus Affair: A Love Story, a satirical look at two baseball players who fall for each other, have also experienced increased interest.

Mayor has been shopped by producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan and, at one point, Oliver Stone had committed to direct with Robin Williams in the lead for Warner Brothers.

But Zadan says the project fell apart when Oliver got attacked by gay groups over his portrayal of gay characters in JFK.

Usual Suspects director Bryan Singer came onto the project last year. According to Zadan, Singer's now interviewing �very high level� screenwriters and should have one on board within a month. Though he says Singer joined the project before Brokeback came to life, �You feel there's a new energy around movies of this ilk.�

Lefcourt�s similarly rocky road to the big screen with his best-seller, with reps from Jodie Foster and Barbra Streisand's production companies expressing an interest before director Betty Thomas got 20th Century Fox to option it.

When Fox let it go, Thomas took the project to New Line Cinema, where, according to Lefcourt, Ben Affleck was set to star before deciding to make Pearl Harbor instead.

Meron and Zadan say they are working on bringing out baseball player Billy Bean's autobiography Going All the Way to life with American Beauty�s Oscar winning writer Alan Ball.

Originally, they had developed the project for Showtime but were dropped when the network decided to focus more on series development. The producers say they are now in active negotiations with another cable network, talking with stars and directors, and anticipate filming this year. – Gay Link Content

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