In pursuit of this goal, Kijak occasionally made Hudson’s films speak to each other in a suggestive way that alluded to his personal life. For example, «Rod Taylor gets a phone call in ‘A Gathering of Eagles’ from Rock Hudson in ‘Pillow Talk’ and they ask him out,» the director explained.
“He could have done a lot more,” Kijak said, “but the idea was to create this kind of fantasy space within the movie, so that he could be himself in a movie from the ’50s and ’60s and be gay. man in that world.»
But that’s not to say that Hollywood was completely oblivious to Hudson’s love life. At the urging of his notorious agent, Henry Willson, who was known for grooming his younger male clients to maintain a more macho image, Hudson married Willson’s secretary, Phyllis Gates, in 1955, a union that lasted only three years. , but the questions continued. swirl about the actor’s sexuality, according to the film. Since Hudson was generally well-liked and respected among his peers, many of his co-stars, including Doris Day and Elizabeth Taylor, as well as the people who had him under contract at Universal Studios, guarded the secret that could end their career.
However, as time went on, there seemed to be a more deliberate creative choice to play on Hudson’s duality of public and private persona on the big screen, Kijak said. His films with Day – «Pillow Talk» (1959), «Lover Came Back» (1961), «Send Me No Flowers» (1964) – «consistently give him a character who pretends to be gay or effeminate when, in fact, he is a straight macho guy, but he does it to deceive [Day’s character]maybe to take her to bed.
Hudson’s screen work, however, told only one side of his story. Under the guidance of author Mark Griffin, who wrote the Latest Matinee Idol BiographyKijak found it much easier than he expected to gain access to the key people in Hudson’s life, which he calls «an incredible gift.»
The producers also made a deal with the actor’s estate, giving the production team unprecedented access to his personal belongings.
«We discovered this box of color slides from 1963, and it’s Rock and her boyfriend, Lee Garlington, on a road trip on the beach, in skimpy bathing suits, looking very hot,» Kijak recalled with a smile. “Those were all unreleased. I don’t even think [his estate] they knew they had them, or they had been forgotten.”
The heart of the film, Kijak said, is the collection of interviews with gay men, including Garlington, who were part of Hudson’s inner circle and spent time at his Beverly Hills mansion nicknamed «the Castle.»
“They make a really neat and compact arc that will take you from the pre-Stonewall era before gay liberation to the other side of the AIDS crisis,” he said. «It gives you an inside look at his life in a very intimate way through anecdotes, memories and real life experiences that I don’t think you can get just by putting famous talking heads in a row.»
Although many of her friends were in long-term partnerships, Hudson was never really able to fully commit to just one person, trying valiantly to be, as a Vanity Fair article once said, “all things to all”. Hudson’s close friend George Nader quit acting in part because he «just wanted to live his life» and «couldn’t deal with the game anymore,» Kijack said, «and Rock just couldn’t ever do that.»
“I think he burned a lot of relationships because he had to constantly code switch. She would date women in public, but then she would have a few drinks and show up at someone’s apartment late at night,” Kijack added. “Everything had to be kept secret.”
After moving to television and starring in NBC’s «McMillan & Wife» in the 1970s, Hudson’s life collided with the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. Despite his declining health, Hudson , who Kijak said was “living in mass denial to the very end” due to the uncertainty of the virus, landed a recurring role on the ABC prime-time soap opera “Dynasty,” in which she co-starred. a now infamous passionless kiss with leading lady Linda Evans. In the documentary, Evans tearfully acknowledged that, at a time when some feared that kissing from her could transmit the virus that causes AIDS, Hudson was simply trying to protect her.
A few months before Hudson’s death, his French publicist Yanou Collart revealed his diagnosis to the mediasetting off a storm of AIDS-related panic in Hollywood.
“None of us are 100% sure where his head was at the time, how conscious or complicit he was in the revelation, or how much control he had of the narrative, but we do know that he had a massive impact on the way people spoke. about HIV and AIDS,” Kijak said.
He added that he hopes his film will remind audiences, especially younger generations, of the «horrible» early years of the epidemic and the Reagan administration’s slow response until Hudson brought discussion of the disease into the mainstream.