Posted on Monday, March 1st, 2010 by Russ Fischer
Before Gus Van Sant’s film Milk was released, many people who didn’t watch Big Love wondered “who the hell is Dustin Lance Black?” That’s the young writer who made his name on Big Love, and whose name was credited large in trailers for his collaboration with Van Sant. After seeing Milk, the question was more like, “when will we see more from this guy?” Giving a great thank-you speech when accepting his Oscar for writing Milk helped cement interest in Black.
Well, Black is currently finishing up What’s Wrong with Virginia, the film he wrote and directed that stars Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly. And now it seems like he’s been tapped to write a biopic based on the life of J. Edgar Hoover, the first director of the FBI and one of the most famous lawmen in the world.
Pajiba reports that Black is writing the script for Ron Howard‘s company Imagine Entertainment. While I’m not wild about the idea of Imagine being behind the film, that’s a really interesting hire. Black is very interested in representing the interests of gay culture, and has spoken passionately about young gay men and women being able to safely come out. Hoover was reportedly a cross-dresser and some claim he was homosexual.
Much more substantiated is the fact that Hoover would wield elements of the FBI and other federal energy to control and subvert the civil rights of those he considered enemies and dangers to democracy. He would compile information about the sexual preferences of some subjects, and reportedly used it to discredit them. Regardless of the truth behind the gay/cross-dressing rumor (an image that may have bloomed simply as a way to use Hoover’s own smear campaigns against him) there’s a lot of material in Hoover’s story that would make it of interest to Dustin Lance Black. I love the idea of him drafting this script.
Hoover has been on screen several times before, most recently as played by Billy Crudup in Public Enemies. None of the screen portrayals of Hoover, however, hold a candle to the one written by James Ellroy in American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand and Blood’s A Rover. I don’t know that Ellroy’s version of the man is true to life, but he writes him magnificently nonetheless. Channelled by Ellroy’s pen, Hoover is a spider at the center of a massive web of information, always pulling strings and letting out slack to manipulate politics and culture. But he is tragically flawed by shortsighted arrogance. I’d be wild about seeing Ellroy’s Hoover on screen, but I have faith that Black can come up with his own compelling presentation.