Director Alan Ball and actor Paul Bettany reimagine their own family histories in new movie Uncle Frank, about a closeted gay man coming out in the 1970s.
True Blood and Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball, who is gay, wrote and directed the new film, which takes place in 1973.
Teenager Beth leaves her rural Southern hometown for New York City where her uncle Frank, played by Bettany, teaches.
Soon after arriving, she discovers her uncle is gay and lives with longtime partner Wally.
But when Franks father suddenly dies, the trio road trip home to South Carolina for the funeral and the gay man must confront his past.
Alan Ball told Entertainment Weekly although the film is not autobiographical, the story is a very personal one.
“When I was 33 years old, I was living in New York City. I took a trip home to Georgia to come out to my mother,” he said.
“And she surprised me by saying, ‘Well, I blame your father for this because I think he was that way too.'”
Ball said he was unsure if it was true and doesn’t want to out his late father, but he never forgot the conversation.
“The next day, we were driving and she mentioned the name Sam Lassiter,” he said.
“I had never heard of him. She told me, ‘He was a real, real, real, good friend of your daddy’s.’
“Later, I found out that my dad had accompanied Sam’s body on a train back to their hometown.
“What if it was true? This tragic thing happening so early in their lives that Frank would have to deal with for the rest of his life?”
Uncle Frank star Paul Bettany’s father had ‘sad end’ to coming out story
Lead actor Paul Bettany said his own late father, dancer-actor Thane Bettany, came out to him at age 63.
Thane, who was a Catholic, went on to lose his longtime partner when he was in his early 80s.
“Then he went back into the closet just before he died,” Bettany said.
“So he would be let past the pearly gates, in his own head. It was a very sad end [for him],” he said.
“It gave me pause to do [the film] because I would have to confront some of the consequences of his struggle with his own identity that reverberated into my own.”
But once Bettany heard Alan Ball tell his own story, he realised both men “wanted to put things right” with the project.
“I felt it would be beautiful to make a story [asking] what if he’d been able to come to terms with himself? What would that have done for his life?”
Uncle Frank is available to stream Amazon Prime Video from November 25.
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