Magazine article Variety

Story of Ex-Gay Man Stirs Sundance

Magazine article Variety

Story of Ex-Gay Man Stirs Sundance

Article excerpt

ON JAN. 29, the Sundance Film Festival will premiere "I Am Michael," a controversial drama starring James Franco as Michael Glatze, a former gay activist who in 2007 renounced his homosexuality and turned to Christianity to start a new life. Glatz was featured in Benoit Denizet-Lewis' 2011 New York Times Magazine article called "My Ex-Gay Friend," which caused a stir among gay bloggers, and prompted Gus Van Sant to chase the rights and secure Franco as the star.

"It's like a lot of projects, where in the beginning, there's an idea that's interesting to me, but I don't quite know how it'll be fleshed out," said Franco at a dinner hosted by Variety for the film in Park City. "I liked the reverse take on this story." He didn't meet Glatze in person until after the Wyoming pastor, who is now married to a woman, saw a finished cut. "I want to thank you," Glatze told Franco. "You're a good actor."

But despite its subject's approval, "I Am Michael" is sure to stir more debate. Both Franco and Van Sant considered directing the film, before handing the reins to first-time director Justin Kelly. The project was shot over the summer in Long Island in only 19 days, on a budget of less than $3 million. It's one of the rare films to arrive with a gay theme and stars such as Franco, Zachary Quinto (who plays the ex-boyfriend) and Emma Roberts (the girlfriend).

"I heard and read what people were saying, 'Why give this guy a voice?'" Kelly says. But the more he talked to Glatze about the backlash he faced, the more convinced he was that there was a story to be told. …

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