Fun with Harv and George? the Success of Brokeback Has Hollywood Dusting off Long-Stalled Gay Projects, from the Harvey Milk Story to the Romantic Comedy the Dreyfus Affair

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Whether you found it a life-altering touchstone, a good cry, or even a major snooze, there's no question that Brokeback Mountain is filmmaking's financial success story of the year. It's one of the few offerings a DVD-besotted public is anxious to run out and see in theaters. As the first full-on gay romance to break through the niche-market ceiling it's got Hollywood's gay-shy moneymen taking notice.

"The success of Brokeback Mountain is not about a public hunger for gay stories, but that the sociocultural resistance to them is wearing away," says out producer and director Alan Poul, whose credits include Six Feet Under, My So-called Life, and three Tales of the City miniseries. "Moreover, its success creates an atmosphere of receptivity for movies in which people of the same sex show visible [physical] affection."

Comparing Brokeback to 1993's Six Degrees of Separation--in which "they had to [show] just the back of Will Smith's head, because he wouldn't kiss another actor"--Poul adds, "I hate to say we're measuring success in such small strides, but if the taint is gone from the male-male kiss because of Brokeback, then that's a big breakthrough."

If, as the song in Casablanca goes, "a kiss is just a kiss," even if it's between two men, then Brokeback's river of greenbacks could wash away the logjam that's kept any number of gay-themed projects trapped in development hell. Novelist Patricia Nell Warren is again touting the cinematic possibilities of her track-and-field romance classic, The Front Runner--which Paul Newman famously considered, then reconsidered, bringing to the screen two decades ago, A more recent victim of turnaround, the gays-in-baseball comedy The Dreyfus Affair, once linked to director Betty Thomas and star Ben Affleck, may be taken out of mothballs too. And that's not to mention the inevitable movie of the hit gay baseball play Take Me Out.

But there's a downside to Brokeback fever, as indicated by producer Lee Levinsen's remark to a Los Angeles Times reporter that "it's going to help us in the sense that we are going to reach out to a heterosexual star for the gay roles. …

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