During the 2015 Spirit Awards ceremony I asked director Ira Sachs, whose Love Is Strange (’14) had been nominated for Best Feature and Best Screenplay, about his plans for a Montgomery Clift HBO biopic that he had begun to write with Mauricio Zacharias. He said it was a bit too early to discuss but I saw something in his eyes as we chatted — Clift’s saga was somehow too big for him.
(l.) Matt Bomer; (r.) the late Montgomery Clift.
Sachs has alway struck me as a somber internalist, a low-key indie guy, a dweeby explorer of quiet intimate material. He could never be mistaken for a director who feeds off the glare of the marquee, and Clift was and is “big” — a tragic brooding hunk (at least before the car accident), a famously closeted icon after his death and easily the charismatic equal of Marlon Brando and James Dean in the ’50s. Call me crazy but I heard a voice that said “Clift might be beyond Sachs’ grasp…they just don’t seem like a match.”
Well, here it is two years later and I haven’t heard zip about the Clift project, which was going to be a big score for Normal Heart costar and Clift look-alike Matt Bomer, and not a word about Sachs and Zacharias’ screenplay. But maybe I’m out of the loop so I’m openly asking the producers — Anonymous Content’s Tony Lipp and Alix Madigan, Pier 3 Pictures’ Michael Din and Larry Moss — what’s up. It just seems a shame that they might — I say “might” — have dropped the ball on this.
“Bomer is nearly a dead ringer for the late actor, but his plan to star in Monty Clift was announced over two months ago during the Savannah Film Festival, which Bomer attended. (I was there also and tried to speak to Bomer about the Clift project, but festival publicists stiffed me.)
“The HBO film will be “centered around the acclaimed actor’s tumultuous personal life,” Deadline says. That alludes to Clift having been psychologically screwed up (to some extent due to his being deeply closeted) with a major drinking problem going back to the early ’50s, and the fact that he all but destroyed his looks and his matinee-idol career when he piled a car into a telephone pole in ’56, after which he added prescription drugs and pain pills to the boozing.
“In my mind Clift, the first method-y actor to punch through the studio system and become a major star, peaked from Red River through From Here To Eternity — a seven-year run. But after the accident he went from being one of the best-looking actors who’d ever lived to a twitchy geek with big ears and a crackly, spazzy voice.
“It took Clift ten years to kill himself. Upon his death in July 1966 the final decade of his life was called ‘the slowest suicide in show-business history‘ or words to that effect.”