The Celluloid Closet

( The Celluloid Closet is a 1995 American documentary film directed and written by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. The film is based on Vito Russo’s book of the same name first published in 1981 and on lecture and film clip presentations he gave in 1972–82. Russo had researched the history of how motion pictures, especially Hollywood films, had portrayed gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender characters. )

With the upcoming big Hollywood Movie remake of Ben-Hur coming out on 25 august 2016, I thought it would be a good idea to talk a bit about the homo-erotic history of the one made in 1959.

Or in the words of the screen writer of that movie Gore Vidal:

` The best example I lived through was Ben-Hur. Ben-Hur and Messala. One Yewish, one Roman, They knew each other from youth and they disagree about politics and now they hate each other for the next three hours. Well, that isn´t much to put a whole three hour movie on, even one as gorgeously junky as Ben-Hur. `

The director of the movie Wiliam Wyler said: `Well what do you do?`

And I said: `Well let me try something….

Let´s say these two guys from when they were 15, when they last saw each other, they had been lovers, and now they are meeting again and the Roman wants to start it back up. Messala, played by Stephen Boyd wants to start it back up with Ben-Hur, played by Charlton Heston. `

Obviously when you get back with your long lost lover, the thing to do is have a spear throwing contest. Nothing erotic going on there of course.

Gore Vidal :

` I will never use the word, there will be nothing overt. But it will be perfectly clear that Messala is in love with Ben Hur `

They accomplish this by only talking to Stephen Boyd, and not by Charlton Heston, who they thought would throw a fit about this…

(Whole clip is to be found here.)

There has been talks about if or not the gay overtones would still be present in the the re-make. (like here in this article of the Independent. )

` Toby Kebbell - who plays Messala in the 2016 adaptation - said the film will not feature an overtly homosexual relation, but if people want to interpret it as that they are welcome to. `

But they will probably be pandering to the Evangelical audience they are expecting. If you watch the Trailer, they obviously make a great effort of calling the relationship between Ben-Hur and Messala Brothers. And I do not expect a playful homo erotic game of spear throwing in the the new re-make.

So let´s talk about it.