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This story originally appeared in the Nov. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
What interested you in the story of J. Edgar Hoover?
The parallels with today, the same fears. We start the film with the bombings of 11 people in one night, and it’s different organizations and philosophies, but there is always somebody who is jealous of our country, where it’s come from and where it’s going.
Did you sympathize with Hoover’s approach?
I don’t know. Instead of infiltrating the organizations and finding out where they were from, they sent in groups of law enforcement agents to just beat the hell out of everybody. Nowadays, they would have to be more clever. And the idea of keeping files on everybody — you could go overboard and have a lot of innocent people fall by the wayside, which he did.
What surprised you about him?
Obviously, he was a very political animal; he seemed to be able to exist with anybody. I’ve listened to an awful lot of tapes of him and [Richard] Nixon speaking, and he seemed to be falling right in — though I don’t know how much they liked each other. He and Robert Kennedy were not fond of each another, and when he announces [in the movie that John F. Kennedy] has been shot, he gives him a very curt call and then hangs up. All of that is true. He had a certain cruelty that he was able to exhibit if he didn’t like you.
What about his sexuality?
Whether he was gay remains to be seen. But [he and Clyde Tolson] were inseparable buddies. Was that because he didn’t trust anybody else or was it a love story? I think they had a great affection; whether it was gay or not, I don’t know. A lot of people are curious about that because it is more sensational. But I prefer to let the story stimulate the imagination. The audience can interpret what they want.
Would an overtly gay story have been more difficult to direct?
Not at all. If the story were well written, I wouldn’t have found it difficult. It takes a little bit to shock me.
Have you grown more tolerant over the years?
Probably. If a person doesn’t change, there’s something really wrong with him. But I think I have always been fairly tolerant. I have libertarian feelings about everything: Leave people alone; let’s not overdo everything.
A Star Is Born has been postponed. Where does that stand now?
That’s delayed. Beyonce is in the process of incubating; she became pregnant, and until early next year she’ll be on that project. But we are going to do it later, in the early summer.
You’re also going to star in Trouble With the Curve, the directing debut of your producing partner Robert Lorenz. What’s that?
It’s a relationship story between a father and daughter, and the father is an older dude — I have to work hard on that one! The daughter is a lawyer and trying to help him with the usual things that happen when you become a senior citizen. She gives up her career, which is going well, to help him — and he’s not an appreciative guy. It’s got some good characters. I’ll probably do that first, but we are still in the initial stages. –
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