Even by Hollywood standards, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry has had an absurdly long journey to the screen. ”I don’t think there’s a person in Hollywood who hasn’t read it,” says director Dennis Dugan of the script. No kidding. The original idea — about a pair of heterosexual firefighters who pose as a gay married couple in order to qualify for domestic-partner benefits — is over a decade old. In fact, Dugan is the third director on the project, which has reportedly at varying times attracted Will Smith, Nicolas Cage, and James Gandolfini and was written and rewritten by a veritable army of comedy scribes. Think we’re exaggerating? In addition to Barry Fanaro, Alexander Payne, and Jim Taylor, Jon Favreau, Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel, and late TV actor Lew Gallo all took a whack.
So what was the problem? Not just the subject matter. It proved extremely difficult to find the right actors to tackle The Birdcage in reverse. ”The weight of Adam Sandler and Kevin James finally got this rolling,” says Dugan (Happy Gilmore). And while Sandler’s coarse, goofy style may not seem right for such a hot-button issue, the studio’s taken the time to screen the movie for GLAAD and listen to their comments. ”The movie has…some of the expected stereotypes, but in its own disarming way, it’s a call for equality and respect,” says Damon Romine, a GLAAD representative. Dan Aykroyd, who plays the fire chief, seconds that opinion. ”It’s a movie about tolerance…. Sure, there will be a little controversy, which hopefully will help sell tickets. I don’t see the gay community getting upset about it.” Either way, dealing with gay marriage will certainly bring plenty of attention to the movie, which has James a little nervous. ”I’m glad that it’s a risky topic. Gay, straight — it doesn’t matter. You definitely feel for these characters,” he says. ”At least I hope you do. If you don’t, we’re in trouble.” (July 20)