Ron Nyswaner, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of "Freeheld," which centered on a real-life lesbian couple who won domestic partner rights in the years before marriage equality, has apologized after accusing the producers of "de-gaying" his movie in an awards ceremony speech.
The limited-release "Freeheld," starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page, received plenty of advance buzz, including a memorable Out magazine cover story, but reportedly raked in just $513,000 in its first weekend.
Nyswaner, who received an Oscar nomination for 1993's "Philadelphia," seemed to attribute his latest movie's failure to the final cut being "normalized" and "de-gayed," The Hollywood Reporter reports. Although he did not mention "Freeheld" by name, Nyswaner described the work as featuring characters that were "turned into Lesbians with lower-case 'l'" in a Nov. 7 speech at the Vanguard Awards benefiting the Los Angeles LGBT Center, a snippet of which can be viewed above.
"One of my recent gay-themed projects had a lot of potential. But the producers became fearful," Nyswaner, who is openly gay, said. "The gay characters were idealized. Their edges were smoothed out. The conflict between them was softened. Over my vigorous objections, by the way, for the record."
He then added, "God forbid, someone might think we were making a movie about a couple of dykes. Out of fear, they were normalized. We must remember, and insist that others honor, our history and our very specific gay culture."
Nyswaner concluded his speech by vowing to "create art in which gay characters are not normalized."
On Wednesday, however, he apologized for the remarks in a statement released to The Hollywood Reporter, calling them "inaccurate and unfair."
"The producers never suggested that the characters should be anything but thoroughly and proudly gay," he clarified. "The movie is satisfying and beautiful in many ways, particularly in the performances of the leads. The script that made it to the screen is weaker than it ought to have been and for that I must accept responsibility."
"De-gayed" or not, "Freeheld" didn't leave much of an impression with the critics. The Guardian's Nigel M. Smith deemed the movie "an important civil rights story rendered lifeless" after its premiere at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival, while The Hollywood Reporter was slightly kinder, calling it "a well-intentioned crusade that could use more fire."
Better luck next time, Ron!
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