"It was Betty Thomas's interest that revived this book," says author Peter Lefcourt, referring to The Dreyfus Affair, his bitter sweet tale about two gay major-league baseball players in love. The novel became a hot Hollywood property when it was published by Random House in 1992, drawing interest from the likes of Barbra Streisand, Jodie Foster, and Garth Brooks. It was even optioned by Disney--twice. But as The Birdcage, In & Out, and The Object of My Affection made their way to the big screen, Dreyfus never came close. Until now.
"It very well could be Betty's next film," says producer Jenno Topping, Thomas's partner in the pair's Tall Tree Productions. A few months ago Thomas--whose credits include The Brady Bunch Movie, Private Parts, and this summer's Dr. Dolittle--read The Dreyfus Affair and liked it so much, she persuaded 20th Century Fox to option it on her behalf. Dolittle coscreenwriter Larry Levin has just turned in a script that, Thomas must now consider along with several other future projects. But the odds seem good that she'll take a swing at Dreyfus. "Betty loves risky material," says Topping. "She always has."
And given Hollywood's aversion to portraying gay sex on screen, Dreyfus definitely qualifies as risky. "These are two young good-looking guys who are not only attracted to each other, they're in love with each other," says Lefcourt. "There has to be an erotic thing going on here somewhere, and that's what's scary to people."
Lefcourt, 56, is no stranger to Hollywood's strange ways. Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., he served as a writer-producer on television series such as Eight Is Enough, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, and Cagney & Lacey (for which he won an Emmy in 1984). His other novels include The Deal, Di and I, and Abbreviating Ernie. Simon and Schuster releases his next book in October. Titled The Woody, it's a political farce set in the nation's capital, and Lefcourt says it contains a major subplot revolving around a group of gay Senate aides.
Although same-sex romance seems to be a recurring story line for this straight author, it's not intentional. "I always thought of The Dreyfus affair as a comedy about public relations and baseball," says Lefcourt, who asked himself what would happen of America suddenly found out that two famous sports pros were sweethearts. "The original idea was to do more of the reaction to the affair. So I started creating these characters of Randy Dreyfus and D.J. Pickett, and I got into their relationship. I thought there was something endearing about the two of them. I liked the fact that Randy was a guy who was taken completely by surprise by these feelings he had for his second baseman. So the book took off in that direction."
And hit a home run. "It's the most successful of all my books," says Lefcourt, adding that it's in its ninth printing in paperback. "And I think that's because it's in `all the gay bookstores."
Despite its success among readers--gay and straight--The Dreyfus Affair hasn't had a chance to prove itself with moviegoing audiences, who are traditionally skittish when it comes to same-sex romance. It's a fact Lefcourt is well aware of. "I sometimes feel like I've got all these daughters to marry off," says the author of his many projects. "Dreyfus is the one that everybody dates and nobody marries." But with Thomas in the director's seat, Lefcourt sees his most reliable suitor yet. "I don't know if it's going to get made with Betty," he says, "it's just the best shot I have with it. I hope we don't have, tiffs same conversation a year from now."
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|Title Annotation:||Peter Lefcourt's book 'The Dreyfus Affair' may become a feature film|
|Publication:||The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Aug 18, 1998|
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