Film & Video
1 min

Gore Vidal stirs up controversy even after death

Xtra talks with the director of a new doc about the writer and intellectual

Nicholas Wrathall’s documentary is a rare glimpse into the life and times of queer intellectual Gore Vidal.

A new documentary about Gore Vidal, one of the great intellectuals of the 2oth and 21st centuries, is making its Canadian debut at the Hot Docs Bloor Cinema on Dec 4. Nicholas D Wrathall's Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia is part biography and part political retrospective. 

Vidal is best known for literary works such as Lincoln: A Novel, The City and the Pillar and Myra Breckinridge, as well as numerous stage and screen works. The brilliant satire that is Myra Breckinridge, a phenomenon in the 1960s, was labelled pornographic by certain critics.

He had a diverse and influential group of friends that included JFK, Eleanor Roosevelt, Tennessee Williams, Bruce Springsteen and Sting.

Vidal, who said he was bisexual, once famously said, “There is no such thing as a homosexual person, any more than there is such a thing as a heterosexual person. The words are adjectives describing sexual acts, not people.”

Wrathall, however, says this is not accurate: “He was definitely a homosexual.”

During a recent visit to Toronto to promote the film, Wrathall spoke to Xtra about Vidal, noting that “in his younger life he may have been bisexual . . . but throughout his life he was a homosexual. He had a long-term relationship with Howard Austen.”

Though Vidal died in 2012, he has recently been in the news, amid reports that claim he was a pedophile. “I feel that they are unfounded,” Wrathall says. “If you read the articles that came out at the time of the accusations, there’s an equal number denying them, defending him, so I do know there is going to be a challenge to his will, and I do know that the initial comments were from the family that were expected to be in the will, so I feel like there’s different forces at work around those comments.”

It seems that even after death, Vidal knows how to stir up controversy.

Gore Vidal: United States of Amnesia screens at the Bloor Cinema in Toronto on Dec 4 and Dec 5.