J. J. Abrams and Zachary Quinto will make a hidden romance between two erstwhile Hollywood icons come alive.
The business of biopics is always a-booming, but the latest news that J. J. Abrams and Zachary Quinto will be developing one about erstwhile teen heartthrob Tab Hunter and Hollywood leading man Anthony Perkins is exceptionally intriguing. All those names are magnetic in the industry in many different ways — with some being more mainstream than others — and drawing them together for a movie definitely makes for an explosive, noteworthy combination of classic and modern Hollywood.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Hunter and Perkins’s secret love story will be the subject of a new drama at Paramount Pictures titled Tab & Tony. Abrams will produce the film through his Bad Robot banner alongside Quinto and Allan Glaser, Hunter’s long-time partner. Written by Doug Wright (Quills), Tab & Tony will take inspiration from Hunter’s memoir — “Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star” — which includes his first-person account of his relationship with Perkins back in the 1950s.
This wouldn’t be the first time that “Tab Hunter Confidential” has made its way to the big screen. An eponymous documentary had already been released in 2015 — 10 years after the tell-all’s publication date — with Hunter and Glaser’s involvement. Despite some reticence over divulging so much about his personal life (which actually delayed the making of the documentary by seven years), Hunter participated in extensive interviews for Tab Hunter Confidential together with contemporaries such as Debbie Reynolds, Clint Eastwood and John Waters to paint a complete portrait. The film has since won multiple awards and been lauded for its multifaceted approach to its subject. Tab Hunter Confidential is not just an illuminating albeit gossipy and candid look into Hunter’s life. It comments on the deeply political nature of identity and sexuality within the studio system of 50s Hollywood — when being gay meant being constantly at risk of personal and professional ruin. In Hunter’s own words, “This [documentary] gives you a blueprint of what my life was in the younger years, the Hollywood years and the golden years.”
His serious relationship with Perkins evidently plays a notable part in Tab Hunter Confidential. But of course, rather than examining their romance retroactively with the candor demonstrable in the documentary, Tab & Tony will most likely unearth some emotional complexities in real time. That’s just what dramatizations bank on and the juggle to balance career successes with secretive romantic exploits had to be down to a science; a giant acting exercise for the general public’s constant consumption. Hunter — the good-looking poster boy for a squeaky-clean 50s era — was the most popular male star at Warner Bros. between 1955 and 1958. Pre-Psycho, Perkins was quickly moving up the Hollywood food chain, having been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting actors for his second film ever, Friendly Persuasion. But they were in the closet throughout their careers.
That frustratingly normalized perception that success for gay actors was contingent on their secrecy then continued to be mirrored in Hollywood in the decades that followed. These days, queer actors and stories are definitely more visible. However, execs evidently still believe that young queer men, in particular, wouldn’t make convincing (romantic) leads — “the fear is that it may hurt ticket sales.” Obviously, there is invariably a long way to go.
But that’s where a film like Tab & Tony comes in at the right time. No actors have been locked in for the parts of Hunter and Perkins, but the film provides the ideal chance for young gay actors to have a high-profile moment. I’ve long seen Andrew Garfield as a great choice to play Perkins — something I’m not alone in thinking about — ever since Garfield’s days on The Social Network. Yet, that’s a selfish fancast in this day and age. Intentionally or not, straight actors accept LGBTQ roles and push out queer talent from their own spaces all the time. And since finding fresh unknown talent in the LGBTQ community is definitely an option for producers in this case — Hunter and Perkins are well-known icons who can generate interest all on their own, and the movie has the backing of freaking J. J. Abrams and one of his Star Trek stars — there is no excuse to not case diversely.
In more ways than one, Tab & Tony fits right into the ever-shifting cultural climate of the film industry that values transparency and inclusion. This timely narrative may prove to be vital, and we’re thoroughly excited for it.