EXCLUSIVE: Supreme Court decisions this week on same sex marriage has given gays, lesbians and transgenders the closest thing to equal rights they have ever seen in the U.S. And the decision by basketball player Jason Collins to declare that he is gay has opened the door for other jocks to do the same. All of this has given Patricia Nell Warren, author of the groundbreaking 1974 gay-themed novel The Front Runner, newfound resolve to try once more to get her book turned into a feature film. The subject matter — a handsome ex-Marine college track coach who has kept his sexuality secret until he becomes the coach of a world-class runner he falls in love with, until they declare their love right before he becomes a gold medalist, and deal with the tragic consequences of an intolerant society — has long tempted Hollywood but always fell short of the start line. The author feels it is because society wasn’t willing to accept a movie depicting two people in love, who happened to both be men. Warren, who fought to gain back the rights several years ago after decades of futility, is looking for the right fit and hopes the moves toward tolerance will reverberate in Hollywood. The book was the first in a trilogy.
“For me, as the author, this was always about two characters who wanted to be married,” she said. “In the early ’70s, that wasn’t possible. The closest they could get was a personal commitment ceremony, which was a big thing in the early ’70s. If my characters were alive today, they would be tremendously excited by what the Supreme Court did this week.”
The book, which became the first contemporary gay novel to reach the New York Times bestseller lists and has sold over 10 million copies around the world, has endured a long tortured development history. When first published, it became a sensation and it looked like it would be a sprint to movie theaters when Paul Newman optioned it and commissioned a script by Jeremy Larner. Despite the clout that came with being one of the world’s biggest movie stars, Newman couldn’t get it financed, and dropped it. “Paul really stuck his neck publicly, but in those early years, it was a very difficult subject for the film industry to embrace,” Warren told me. (more…)