This is the most wonderful coming out party ever. Even if you aren’t a writer. Or gay:
by Chris Gardner
A wise man once told Ron Nyswaner that humans are motivated by two things: love or fear.
The life lesson has stuck with the out Oscar-nominated screenwriter — known for his work inPhiladelphia, Soldier’s Girl, The Painted Veil, Ray Donovan and most recently Freeheld and Homeland— for most of his. He applied the opposing emotions to his passionate work on behalf of the LGBT community during a moving speech at the Vanguard Awards benefiting the Los Angeles LGBT Center at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on Nov. 7.
“Growing up gay in the 1960s and 1970s, I was quite familiar with fear. There were no gay characters in the movies, on TV or in books. In my entire childhood and teenage years, I heard the word ‘homosexual’ spoken aloud only once. My cousin used it — at Sunday dinner, no less — referring to a man in our church,” Nyswaner recalled at the event, which also honored Jane Fonda and Miley Cyrus. “Then, I found the gay civil rights movement in the ’70s. I can’t describe the relief I felt. But that deep-rooted shame never completely goes away. The challenge isn’t to get rid of it. It’s to do something with it.”
And he has. His 1993 film Philadelphia was credited for bringing the then-challenging conversation surrounding HIV/AIDS to the mainstream thanks to an Oscar-winning star turn from Tom Hanks. While that film has been described as “groundbreaking” (Hanks received a Trailblazer Award for it last week at Outfest’s Legacy Awards), Nyswaner recently faced opposition in telling another gay-themed story.
Though he never mentioned Freeheld by name during his Vanguard speech, it’s clear he was speaking of the recent film starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page. Moore plays the real-life role of Laurel Hester, a woman who fought to give her pension benefits to her domestic partner, Stacie Andree, played by Page.
“For those of us who have that privilege I spoke of, earlier, of being artists — we have our challenges, too. We must take care to protect our history and our culture. We must be careful — as we become mainstream — that we don’t forget we’re the descendants of outlaws and rebels. We must resist the tendency to be de-gayed,” Nyswaner noted, before getting specific about how that happened to Freeheld. “One of my recent gay-themed projects had a lot of potential. But the producers became fearful. The gay characters were idealized. Their edges were smoothed out. The conflict between them was softened. Over my vigorous objections, by the way, for the record.”…