Rock Hudson, the Hollywood screen icon whose death in the 1980s put a mainstream face on the growing AIDS crisis, is getting the big-screen biopic treatment.
Universal Pictures has optioned All That Heaven Allows: A Biography of Rock Hudson by Mark Griffin with plans of turning it into a film to be directed by Greg Berlanti, the prolific showrunner and creator who recently helmed the high school-set gay tale Love, Simon.
Berlanti also will produce, along with his Berlanti Productions president Sarah Schechter and Marsh Productions and Entertainment’s Sherry Marsh (Vikings).
Hudson led a glamorous but ultimately tragic life. On the surface he was one of Tinseltown’s heartthrobs, but he lived in fear of the discovery of his gay lifestyle.
The actor, who began his career as a Universal contract player, broke out in the 1950s with the classics Magnificent Obsession and All That Heaven Allows, both of which were directed by melodrama maestro Douglas Sirk, as well as Giant, which earned him and co-star James Dean Oscar nominations. Hudson was at the height of his career in the early 1960s when he starred with Doris Day in a trio of frothy Universal romantic comedies, starting with 1959’s Pillow Talk.
Offscreen, however, things were turbulent, with the actor under the thumb of a predatory agent and a sham marriage meant to throw off the press.
Hudson’s career had a resurgence in in the 1970s with the TV series McMillan & Wife before major health issues became the dominant story surrounding the star. He was diagnosed with HIV in 1984 and spent a year denying rumors he had AIDS, not wanting to tarnish his image with a disease that was becoming an epidemic, especially in the gay community. In October 1985, Hudson died from AIDS-related complications in Beverly Hills at the age of 59. The revelation of his homosexuality was a milestone in the fight against intolerance toward gay people and those infected with HIV.
“When Sherry Marsh brought this book to us, we jumped at the chance to be involved,” said Berlanti and Schechter in a statement. “Rock Hudson’s life and legacy is a vital piece of both LGBTQ history and Hollywood history and has to be given the big-screen treatment it deserves.”
Hudson’s story has been written about before, not just by the actor himself but in books by a former lover and a former publicist, each with his own agenda. There was even a biography about his manipulative agent. Griffin’s book was praised for its balanced and thoughtful look at the man’s life.
A search for writers to adapt the material is now underway.
Berlanti is one of the biggest names in television, and is currently involved with The CW’s lineup of DC-based shows as well as Riverdale. But he also occasionally takes time to focus on movies, especially those with themes dear to him. He last directed Love, Simon, a coming-of-age YA adaptation that was critically acclaimed, holding a 92 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Berlanti is repped by WME and Felker Toczek. Griffin is repped by Steve Fisher at APA and Ellen Geiger at Frances Goldin Literary Agency.