Now we know why it’s rare to see LGBT characters on the big screen. Most of the time a film is adapted from a book featuring queer characters or same-sex scenarios, the screenwriters turn the characters straight and those homo moments get completely erased. There is such thing as creative liberty, sure, but then there’s total bullshit.
Mental Floss magazine has put together a list of popular movies that changed the original book character’s sexual orientation. It’s surprising to see that despite the changes some films on the list still went on to become queer classics, like Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
The truth of the matter is that literature has always had a more insightful take on gender and homosexuality than the movies. So if you want to see more LGBT characters portrayed faithfully, don’t toss away your library card. Or simply picture Ben-Hur riding more than just a chariot next time that film comes on Turner Classic Movies.
Paul Varjak, Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Book version: In Truman Capote’s original novella, Holly Golightly casually refers to Paul as “Maude,” which was understood in the gay community at the time to be slang for male hooker. And many readers considered Paul to be Holly’s gay bestie.
Movie version: Holly and Paul, played by Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard, have a very different relationship in the 1961 film classic. All of the sudden, it’s become the quintessential Manhattan love story. Screenwriter George Axelrod wrote:
“Nothing really happened in the book. All we had was this glorious girl—a perfect part for Audrey Hepburn. What we had to do was devise a story, get a central romantic relationship, and make the hero a red-blooded heterosexual.”
Pussy Galore, Goldfinger
Book version: In Ian Fleming’s 007 novel, Pussy Galore has a stronger link to her alias by running a band of lesbian cat burglars. Meow. The fact that James Bond gets to sleep with her only proves he can have his way with any woman — gay or straight.
Movie version: In the 1964 film, Pussy Galore not only becomes straight but she also goes from brunette to blonde. Sean Connery as a randy James Bond still gets to sleep with her.
Corporal Fife & Private Bead, The Thin Red Line
Book version: Out on the battlefield during World War II Fife and Bead were forthcoming about “helping each other out” and relieving their sexual urges in this novel first published in 1962. Author James Jones wrote:
“Bead, finding that he was not rebuffed, now became more confident in his voice and in his salesmanship. Apparently it made no difference to him and did not worry him that he was suggesting something homosexual… As he started to crawl over to Fife’s side of the little tent he stopped and said: ‘I just dont want you to think I’m no queer, or nothing like that.'”
Movie version: In the 1998 Terrence Malick flick, Fife and Bead, played by Adrien Brody and Nick Stahl respectively, never shared this intimate moment inside the tent.
Justin McLeod, The Man Without a Face
Book version: A disfigured recluse was originally written as a gay character in the 1972 novel by Isabelle Holland.
Movie version: Mel Gibson directed and starred in the 1993 film version shortly after he made anti-gay remarks in a magazine. Unsurprisingly, in the movie the main character’s relationship with a young man (played again by Nick Stahl) “dropped the gay angle” as the Los Angeles Times noted at the time.
Ruth & Idgie, Fried Green Tomatoes
Book version: The 1987 novel was basically about a romantic, love-y dove-y relationship between the two main female characters.
Movie version: Played by Mary Stuart Masterson and the always-brilliant Mary Louise Parker in the 1991 film, Idgie and Ruth are just very close friends. Very close. Even though the same-sex romance has been explicitly cut out from the movie, BuzzFeed points out the many reasons why these gals form the perfect couple.
Book version: Screenwriter Gore Vidal went above and beyond to find a hint of homosexuality from the original 1880 manuscript that Ben-Hur was based on.
Movie version: Vidal was unsuccessful, however, in convincing the director, the studio and the leading man (Charlton Heston) to preserve a romance between Ben-Hur and his riding buddy.
Brick Pollitt, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Book version: In Tennessee Williams’ play, Brick is the all-American sports hero who becomes a drunken mess who won’t sleep with his wife after his friend Skipper commits suicide. The audience quickly gets the hint that perhaps Brick and Skipper’s bond was a lot, lot deeper.
Movie version: Brick, played by a dreamy Paul Newman, still drowns his sorrows in glasses full of whiskey. But this time the viewers are just as clueless as his wife (Elizabeth Taylor) as to why he’s become all pouty and sad.
Celie Johnson, The Color Purple
Book version: Alice Walker’s novel has Celie and Shug sharing an emotionally and sexually powerful bond. To the point that the women end up sucking each other’s titties.
Movie version: Whoopi Goldberg was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of Celie in Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film adaptation, but she never gets that physical. In the movie, Celie and Shug share nothing but a quick, innocent kiss. In an interview at the time, Whoopi said:
“The movie is not really about feminism or lesbianism (BOO!) despite the fact that Celie finds out about love and tenderness from another woman… It has nothing to do with lesbianism. It has to do with, her eyes are opened, now she understands.”
Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln
Book version: Biographer Carl Sandburg wrote in 1926 that Lincoln had a “streak of lavender” and that Joshua Speed was more of a bedfellow than a roommate.
Movie version: Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner spent six years working on the script for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln film. His research led him to believe that “there is some reason to speculate that Lincoln might have been bisexual or gay,” but romance — gay or otherwise — was not really the focus of the biopic.