Studios wonder if ''Priscilla, Queen of the Desert'' and '' To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar'' will get in each other's way

By Anne Thompson
August 05, 1994 at 04:00 AM EDT

Despite being the toast of Cannes, Australia’s The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert no longer has Steven Spielberg and Universal Pictures in a sweat. Shortly after Priscilla wowed them on the Riviera, insiders noted that the movie — about three drag queens crossing the outback — bore an uncanny resemblance to Amblin/Universal’s To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. Starring Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, and John Leguizamo, Wong Foo, currently shooting in New York City, is also about three drag queens on a cross-country trek.

With Priscilla slated to open Aug. 12, Universal decided to meet the threat head-on. The studio asked Priscilla director Stephan Elliott for a special screening. Universal’s review? A studio source feels that Priscilla might take the edge off Wong Foo‘s originality, but that’s it. ”They’re different movies,” he says. Elliott agrees. ”[Their] script is very polite. Everyone is nice and chatty, while ours is a musical: tasteless, loud, and brash.”

And industry observers believe that if Mrs. Doubtfire and The Crying Game are any indication, there’s plenty of room for movies that explore sexual identity. ”Wong Foo aims at the mainstream,” says Interscope producer David Madden (Three Men and a Baby). ”It won’t be perceived as anything more sexually threatening than Flip Wilson playing Geraldine.”