Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now

Monday, November 07, 2011

Miss J. EDGAR Regrets...

Postscript 11/9/11- The Village Voice review today was pretty positive, including hints Leo didn't balk at the queer closet aspects... so maybe this wild prediction of mine is way off? I hope so.

Was it true that J. Edgar Hoover liked to wear women's clothes or was that a communist plot to discredit him? By all accounts he was a hopeless voyeur who got his kicks listening to bugged tapes of JFK having sex with numerous shakedown starlets and the gay stuff with sheep-dipped plant Sal Mineo even more so. He had a lifelong best friend (ala Robin to Hoover's Batman?) in Clyde Tolson, who inherited Hoover's estate, and they took all their vacations together, but were just pals as far as anyone knew. Biographers theorize Hoover was too paranoid from his own copious blackmailing to ever risk doing anything sexual, gay or straight, and got his rocks off as a voyeur as a result... but that thing with Tolson...
If Leo dons a fez, I'll know I'm wrong.
I worry that in Eastwood's upcoming film the voyeurism angle will be 'neutered' and his sexuality will be conveniently arrested by his duty to a strong but ailing mother figure. I've been reading James Ellroy's awesome Underworld trilogy, wherein Hoover gives his implicit but unspoken okay to the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK and leaves the mob alone in return for their privately eliminating threats to his tenure while he waxes wroth at the safe-to-wax-at danger of communism.

Also, Hoover was allegedly also good buddies with Howard Hughes, who DiCaprio played with similar sweaty reverence in THE AVIATOR. Just as that film dismissed the tissue box shoes and long nails of his later years with a wave of piss jars and a round the clock screening of HELL'S ANGELS, so  J. EDGAR will wave away Hoover's plots against, say, Martin Luther King, through some arbitrary dialogue.  I can see Leo's personal cadre of writers noting that DiCaprio doesn't care for racism, or gaybashing, but may allow a topless shot to show off his jailhouse abs.

I predict also that any actual J. Edgar mom issues will be sentimentalized as in John Ford/Norma Bates/Spielberg sunset sanctification and since Hoover's use of sex tapes and shakedowns made him too paranoid to either approach starlets (there were rumors of him having a thing with Dorothy Lamour) or, probably, to get funky with his longtime companion Colson, sex will be shuttled to the shadows. Leo's penchant for ghostly dead wives haunting him in guilt-wracked moments of boozy self-reflection are likely to provide the alternative 'out'.

Bottom line: the current persona of the Leo DiCaprio hero as a confused, damaged tough guy reflects his use of his own box office clout to avoid genuine emotional risks in his choices of roles. That's why he would make a good J. Edgar Hoover, but I doubt it's the reason Eastwood or DiCaprio thought he'd fit. It's like his unconscious is trying to tell him hey, Leo, you need to stop trying to look tough in manly suits and raincoats and shoulder holsters standing tall on courthouse steps in high contrast blacks and start cackling like the neurotic gunsel / Richard Widmark psychos or grinning and laughing like the romantic fools you were born to play.

Of course I hope I'm wrong. I hope Eastwood's film will dare question Hoover's intentions, manhood, and moral compass in a way that's real and honest and not mere craftsmanship window dressing on a white-washed sainthood canon shot / shoe-in Leo Oscar nod. We know from the promo Leo 'ages' into a crazy old Capote (Phillip Seymour Hoffman would be the ideal choice to play Hoover, and wouldn't flinch from covering the darker areas Leo will doubtlessly sidestep).

Leonardo needs to throw that momma of his down the stairs and get in a real fight, Mickey Rourke-style, that would solve the babyface aspect of his persona he so clearly longss to transcend.
If he wants to return to this era in his historical biopics, he should consider playing a scumbucket racist like James Earle Ray. Now that would be a stone cold brave role for old Leo. But he won't go there, and maybe one day he'll understand why that in itself makes him perfect for the part... of the real J. Edgar!

(POSTSCRIPT: See my praise that Leo did just as I advised - as in his racist role in DJANGO UNCHAINED! In best of 2012)


  1. Well, there's always Django Unchained. If that doesn't get him doing what you want, maybe nothing will.

  2. Whoa, this is the first i heard of Django Unchained. Thanks, SW. You're right, if QT can't make Leo a man, no one can.

  3. Hey Erich, Glad to hear you're enjoying Underworld U.S.A. I was also disappointed by the trailer for J. Edgar. Like Howard Hughes, a film about Hoover has so much potential, but rather than embracing the darkness at the heart of his story, they seem to be tip toeing around it in hopes of winning a few oscars. Very disappointing. Oh well. I read the Christopher Nolan is planning on making a film about Hughes after the new Batman that concentrates more on his racism, mental illness, drug addiction and his Mormon Mafia. That could be very good.


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