I guess it's time for Friedkin himself to weigh in on this:
The novel on which Cruising was based wasn’t really set in that world, but actually the softer scene of gay nightlife in the Upper East Side.I was wondering if you hadn’t set Cruising in S&M nightclubs, if you had put it in the more mainstream gay world, would the reaction have been different — and perhaps even more negative?
Friedkin: It was never a choice for me. I didn’t like the novel Cruising. When I read it, I thought, “There’s nothing here.” I didn’t find it particularly well written, but I did like the setup. I like the idea of a guy going into a world with which he was not really familiar to try and lure a killer. That setup interested me. The book and its setting did not, and it didn’t come together for me until those four events I mentioned to you. When it all came together, and by then D’Antoni had lost the option, and Jerry Weintraub picked up the option and called me and he said, “You know I optioned Cruising.” And I said, “Why?” And he said, “Because I heard you were interested in it and I want to be in business with you.” I told them that I wasn’t interested in it, and it wasn’t until the Bell articles [about gay men being murdered on the west side] that I saw a way to make that film. It was really Matty Ianniello who operated or owned — I’m not sure, I believe he had partners — the Mineshaft, and he gave me the contacts to be able to film there. So it wasn’t until all that came together that I thought I could make a film out of this material.The Mineshaft was a private club, and I had access to it. I knew a lot of the guys and they allowed me to film what was going on there, night after night. And also, along with that, there was the undefined AIDS epidemic. There was this disease that was claiming people’s lives in a very strange way, and then there were these murders happening, basically, in a similar environment. That’s what attracted me [to the subject matter].Cruising drew me because of the exotic nature of the S&M clubs, in particular the Mineshaft, which many gay people were only vaguely aware of at that time.
Now, I have to say that I was not conscious — nor am I still, nor am I now — of the fact that this was going to cause violence to gays to increase. And I don’t believe it did. I know of no instances of more violence to gay people or a setback to gay liberation because of Cruising, but I do understand that that’s how it was perceived by people in the movement. I understand that totally, and I did only after we started shooting.I never believed we would have massive protests against the picture for the very thing I just mentioned to you, but shortly afterwards, I do understand that clearly a lot of people in the movement felt that this would set back the movement and was not the best foot forward for the gay community. When I started the project, I had no inkling of that.
Do you think the reaction would be different if you’d released this film 20 years later?
That’s speculation. I have no idea. I mean, I’m only vaguely aware, and very peripherally, of the fact, because it’s been stated by Stephen Soderbergh that he couldn’t get any distribution company to release the Liberace film in theaters and so he got HBO, which has a much wider distribution than all the theater chains put together… Other than whatever warnings may have been on that or not about young children seeing this, anyone can see it in their home, and so I imagine it was disappointing to Soderbergh to not have the film in theaters, but he said, and I quote, “No studio would release it because it’s too gay.” I find that weird. I think that people are so past that now.I mean, as you know, there are openly gay characters all over series television today, and their sexuality has little to do with the plot of these things… almost nothing to do with them. They’re just gay characters, and that’s an evolution of where it now belongs. Gay characters are, let’s face it, part of the mainstream.
Btw, any fans of Boys in the Band here?
Last edited by monty
on October 31st, 2015, 1:31 am, edited 1 time in total.