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8016802_origThe Reluctant Icon.

An interview with TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL director, Jeffrey Schwarz.

I live my life in search of answers to a number of inconsequential of questions that swirl around in my head at any given moment. For instance, to this day, I need to know what Bette Midler whispered into Dustin Hoffman’s ear before she ran onstage at the Golden Globes to accept her second award for starring in THE ROSE. And while I may never get to know the answer to that particular question, fortune smiled upon me when I had the opportunity to sit down with prolific documentary filmmaker, Jeffrey Schwarz. Ever since seeing his latest film, TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL, in which he captures the essence of the 1950’s pinup boy masterfully, I’ve wondered how he did it. How did he get this reclusive actor, who wrote very plainly how he hates the “gay icon” label people tried to ascribe to him, to consent to be in a film that addresses just that?

“Well, it all started when I interviewed him for I AM DIVINE as he worked with Divine in POLYESTER,” Schwarz begins, as we sit together in Toronto the morning before his film is scheduled to screen at Inside Out, Toronto’s LGBT film festival. “After I finished that project and started to think about adapting his book, I approached Alan [producer Alan Glaser, Hunter’s partner for over 30 years], who is the gatekeeper of all things Tab Hunter, and they had already been thinking about making a documentary based on the book.” Even though Hunter would prefer “to hang in Santa Barbara with his horses”, Schwarz began his six year journey to document Tab Hunter’s “powerful and inspirational” story while exploring “how stars were made in the Golden Age of Hollywood and the public versus the private identity of Hollywood and gay history. [Hunter’s] honesty made things so uncomfortable living this double life in Hollywood.” It was very important to Schwarz that he convey this clearly in his film and that is exactly what he did.

Jeffrey Schwarz,

Jeffrey Schwarz, charming raconteur and Tab Hunter Confidential director.

Much of the success of TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL is due to the plethora of archival footage shown – from family pictures, movie magazine covers and articles to his early screen and television appearances. Whereas Hunter is not a sentimental person and kept no personal memorabilia, Schwarz explains that “Alan already had been doing that job for thirty years, scouring auctions, thrift shops and, eventually Ebay. There’s a storage facility in their backyard with all this stuff. I was a kid in a candy store!” Equally fascinating is the sheer volume of celebrity interviews, which according to Schwarz were very easy to secure as “he knows all these people and they love him.” It’s an impressive list to, ranging from movie icons as eclectic as Clint Eastwood, Robert Wagner and Debbie Reynolds (“She was very naïve as to what was going on,” says Schwarz on her knowledge of Hunter’s secret life) to friends ranging from George Takei, Noah Wylie and Portia de Rossi.

After tackling fascinating subject matter, from gay porn star, Jack Wrangler (WRANGLER: ANATOMY OF AN ICON), to important gay activist and the father of gay cinema, Vito Russo (VITO) and more recently Divine and Tab Hunter, I had to know what was next from the man who describes himself as “obsessed with pop culture”. “The next film is called ‘The Fabulous Allan Carr’. He’s an infamous, colourful Hollywood figure who started out as a talent manager for stars like Ann Margret and he ended up being a movie producer, producing GREASE, which until MAMMA MIA, was the biggest movie musical of all time. He had high highs and low lows. I love his flamboyance and passion and I wonder what makes someone like that tick.”


With that said, it was time to conclude our chat, though I honestly could have sat there for hours listening to this charming raconteur and conversationalist. His passion for film is abundant and his success stems directly from how much he cares about his subject matter. Maybe one day we’ll be calling him an icon too. Now, I just need him to make a Better Midler doc so I can finally answer that other lingering question.

TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL will continue to play at film festivals throughout the summer. For more with Jeffrey Schwarz, check out our interview with him on VITO here.

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