Tab Hunter Confidential
Originally published During BFI Flare 2015
The story of matinee idol Tab Hunter from teenage stable boy to closeted Hollywood star of the 1950s.
Hi Jeffrey thank you for talking with tNC, how's things been going?
Things are great - we're at the end of a long journey with this film and I'm really excited to finally be able share it with the world.
How does it feel to be coming back to BFI Flare with your new film?
It's been two years since the premiere of I AM DIVINE which also had its international debut at BFI Flare. It's a big honour to be asked back and I can't wait to get there. Tab Hunter himself is coming with us so that makes it even more special.
Do nerves still set in when you're screening your films with festival audiences?
It's not so much nerves but a giddy excitement to finally be sitting with an audience watching the film for the first time. Most of filmmaking is sitting alone in a dark room hoping that people will connect emotionally with the decisions you're making, so getting to hear the crowd's response is illuminating.
Your new documentary 'Tab Hunter Confidential' is going to be having its European Premiere film at this years festival, how did the film come about?
Tab co-starred with Divine in John Waters' POLYESTER, so I interviewed him and his partner Allan Glaser for I AM DIVINE. I had read his book and always thought it would make a fascinating documentary so pitched him the idea. Turns out Allan and Tab were already thinking about making a doc, and they thought I had the right sensibility for the project so they brought me on board. I'm really grateful for that, and especially happy that Tab is pleased with the end result.
What was it about Tab Hunters story that interested you so much?
All of my films are about ultimately accepting who you are, and this fit in with the themes I'm interested in exploring. I wanted to find out what it was like to be a studio manufactured movie star during the Golden Age of Hollywood and the consequences of being someone totally different from the persona that was being sold to the public. The fact that we had unprecedented access to Tab Hunter himself gave us an opportunity to learn first hand about his journey of self-discovery and ultimately self-acceptance. Tab remained true to himself during a terribly homophobic era that denied him the right to live openly and express who he truly was.
What has it been like for you to be able to work with Tab on this project?
Tab is an extremely private person. At his core he's not terribly comfortable being in the public eye, which is ironic since he's spent most of his life there. He came of age in an era where there are some things you just do not talk about. So the fact that he has been willing to open up and share very personal and intimate details of his journey is very meaningful. I think anyone who's had to struggle with trying to be who they are and come out the other side as a happy and healthy survivor will identify.
What had been the biggest challenges you faced while making this film?
As with any documentary it's just keeping the faith that everything will fall into place and the film will be completed. Making documentaries is a marathon, and this film was no exception. But our entire team has a deep love and respect for Tab and we all had the same goal of sharing his story with the world.
Are you every able to let a film go or do you keep thinking 'I could have / should have done this differently?
Yeah of course when I see my work after its completed there are always things I'd like to tweak or change - I think most filmmakers would have the same answer. But this is definitely the movie we set out to make and I'm really proud of the film.
"I think it's about the destructive nature of the closet, and how far we've come since the dark days of the 1950s."
How has your approach to film making changed since your debut film?
I think the approach in all the films is similar - ultimately I want to illuminate and entertain an audience. I do have this sneaking suspicion that I'm making the same movie over and over again. I started making films to celebrate iconic, larger than life individuals with a great story to tell. They all created a finely tuned persona that helped cover up any insecurities they may have had to help them move forward in the world.
And finally what would you lie people will take from you film?
I think it's about the destructive nature of the closet, and how far we've come since the dark days of the 1950s. It will be eye-opening for younger audiences to learn about this period where if people found out you were gay it could literally destroy your reputation and our livelihood. The film is ultimately about how one can live an authentic life and journey from self-loathing to self-acceptance. Tab's story is a conduit to explore these themes.