While there is a shortage of new films hitting the theater due to COVID-19, there is one new project that sounds as if it will be amazing!
Billy Eichner will be playing the lead in Man In The Box, a biopic about the beloved actor, Paul Lynde, who was stigmatized for being gay throughout his career. Eichner is developing the film alongside Tom McNulty.
Lynde first found fame following his role in Bye Bye Birdie, and then he shot to fame with his guest turns as Uncle Arthur on Bewitched. Later, he joined the Hollywood Squares game show, became the center square legend and the rest is history.
Although Lynde never specifically addressed his sexuality, the iconic TV star never bothered to deny it either, and he was often noted for his “barely-closeted” lifestyle which, at the time, was uncommon. And although fans adored him, it became apparent that he was‘not on the same lists for roles as straight actors — his overt embrace of his sexuality was groundbreaking, but it also impacted his career.
What drew Eichner to wanting to make the movie? He told Deadline:
There’s some overlap, between Paul and I, in that we both had our breakthrough in the industry, as performers, presenting a rather larger-than-life, flamboyant, gay persona on screen. Even though I was always very out, Paul was never technically out. But he was as out as you could be, at that time, in that he was clearly leaning into a flamboyant persona. Unlike Rock Hudson, and Tab Hunter, and Cary Grant, and all these other actors, he wasn’t pretending to be straight.
Eichner goers on to state the gay actors are still marginalized:
I’ve always been fascinated in Hollywood with the limited options presented to actors, who present themselves as something other than masculine. We might applaud them, and we might say, oh, they’re so funny, you know, but they have tended, in the past, not to be allowed to have the types of dynamic, chameleon-like careers that straight actors, who get the same level of admiration, the same level of respect, the same number of laughs, have been able to get.
There is no gay Tom Hanks in this country. There is no gay Will Ferrell. There’s no gay Steve Carell. There’s no gay Paul Rudd. There’s no gay Kevin Hart. There’s no gay Will Smith. The list goes on and on, and that’s not a coincidence. After a hundred years of making films, it’s not a coincidence. It’s not that they just haven’t been able to find the right gay man, who has enough talent to have a career like that.
It is going to be a long way before gay actors in Hollywood get a fair shot at all the roles. Eichner gives an example of the Judd Apatow movie that he’s going to be starring in and producing:
You know, a straight actor who is on a list…whenever there’s a gay character…I’m doing this rom com, about a gay male couple that I wrote and I’m starring in for Universal, that Judd Apatow is producing. Nick Stoller and I co-wrote it. We were just about to shoot it when COVID hit. Hopefully, we’ll shoot it next year, but I’m an EP on that and heavily involved in all ways. So, I was privy to casting discussions, and I would see when the casting lists were circulating, about which actors to call in for which role. There were so many straight actors on every list to play gay characters. And then, at the beginning before I raised my voice, for the straight characters in the movie, there were never gay actors on the lists for those roles. I saw it with my own eyes. It’s not a two-way street.