Obviously there's a long way to go, but it seems that we're finally going to see a film about Rudolph Valentino as he really was, as opposed to how obsessive fans want him to be to fit in with their ideal of the Italian stud-ubermensch.
I and many others have always maintained that Valentino was gay, or at the very least bisexual. He endured two lavender marriages with rapacious lesbians, and his coterie of early female friends such as Damia, Nazimova, and Mae Murray--acknowledged "fag-hags" for want of a better description--along with his associations with Ramon Novarro, Andre Daven, Robert Florey and George O'Brien, further point towards his physical attraction towards men. Add to this his paranoia concerning his "manliness", in an age when homosexuals were stigmatized as lily-livered degenerates and when some regarded homosexuality as an actual disease, and we have a clearer picture.
Ken Russell attempted a biopic of Valentino some years ago, the result of which was a mish-mash of truth, fantasy and fiction. It was an excellent film. It's lead, Rudolph Nureyev, exonerated himself well. Certain changes were made at the last minute. Jean Acker was still alive and asked not to be in the production. Pola Negri, who claimed to have been affianced to Valentino at the time of his death--in fact, they were only friends--kicked up a fuss, and the opening sequence saw Nazimova going hysterical at his funeral in her place. Russell championed my original book, and as a result of this I was brought to Chicago to participate in the Humanities Festival of 1998. The book surprised me by becoming the biggest-selling Valentino biography ever published--I am eternally grateful that after almost 20 years, it is still in print.
In 2000, I signed a contract to make a biopic about Valentino, and this hit problems from the word go. One producer wanted the film to open with an extended vomiting scene--Valentino being taken ill in a New York hotel. This being one of my personal paranoias, I refused. Also, I refused to have any man-on-man sex scenes, finding them unnecessary. One does not have to see all the bump-and-grind to get the picture. Finally, after way too many arguments, the project was dropped. It was picked up again in 2014 with the publication of Valentino: The Screen God Who Loved Men, when two actors were approached to play the title-role. One has since dropped out, but the other is still very much in the running.
So, there we are...and here I am this morning in a cold and wet France, feeling much better about the project whilst on home territory, so to speak. It may be said that Valentino's career actually began in Paris, when he was just eighteen. Like I say, there is still a long way to go and I don't doubt there will be umpteen changes to the script--also, another film project is currently "on the stocks", as they say--but I am more hopeful this time around.