Feeling a bit harassed at the weekend I rented a hefty stack of DVDs. Instead of pursuing that impossible dream of finding something Andy and I both fancied I just went (more) selfish and followed a mental list that would have robbed me of any arthouse credibility I ever had (I’m just saying, Camelot, was featured. Yes the musical version. It is awesome.).
Also included was the documentary The Celluloid Closet, which is based on a book that looks at the representation of gay and lesbian people and relationships in Hollywood movies. It was much more interesting than it sounds. Anyway, I was quite captivated by what Gore Vidal had to say about Ben Hur and thought I would pass it on as it tickled my fancy.
Basically Vidal (who was the movie's screenwriter) claimed that he convinced the director to have an (unmentioned on-screen obviously) back-story involving a gay relationship between Ben-Hur and his old friend Messala to add more emotional intensity to their scenes. According to Vidal the director said "well it's better than what we've got" but said they would only tell the dude playing Messala and not Charlton Heston because he wouldn't go for it.
The result was - again this is all according to Vidal - that Heston played it straight as a childhood friend while the other guy was in on it, all brooding glances and fierce forearm-grabbing. I'm not sure if it's Vidal's obvious delight at telling the story and hoodwinking Heston or Heston's air of homophobia when he denied Vidal's claims but the whole idea amuses me no end. I hope it's true.