In the history of the gay rights struggle, few people have managed to raise the ire of the pro camp more than Anita Bryant, who spent much of the 1970s mounting a very vocal campaign against giving gay people any rights whatsoever.
Now Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (The Celluloid Closet, Howl, Lovelace) are planning a biopic about her, and THR reports they’ve signed up Uma Thurman for the lead role.
Bryant started out as a former Miss Oklahoma who became a singer, scoring a few minor hits in the late 50s and early 60s. After that she was known for starring in commercials, particularly for orange juice. However in the mid-70s she led a campaign against a Dade County, Florida ordinance that would have banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
This made her the poster-girl of the anti-gay movement, and for several years afterwards she travelled the country trying to strike down any laws that would make life better for homosexuals. Her name soon became synonymous in the gay community with bigotry and homophobia.
However her campaigning hurt her business interests and entertainment career. She lost her job as the advertising spokeswoman for the Florida Citrus Commission after gay people organised a boycott of orange juice (many bars removed screwdrivers from their menu and replaced it with the ‘Anita Bryant’, which was vodka and apple juice). She also got divorced, which harmed her standing with some fundamentalist Christians, who’d previously been her biggest supporters but many of whom don’t believe in divorce.
By the 1990s attempts to revitalise her career – including opening a venue where she sang and preached about her Christian beliefs – failed and she went bankrupt. Since then, while she’s been less publicly visible, she’s still been active, including heading up her own ministry.
The film’s screenplay comes from Chad Hodge, a gay man who managed to get Bryant to agree to meet with him, despite the fact she’s generally tried to shun the controversies of her past (she hasn’t changed her mind, she just wants to be known for other things). They apparently got on well and he forced her to confront her past. It’s believed the movie will cover both her anti-gay campaigning and this later meeting.
There’s no news on when it might shoot.