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Condon, William "Bill" (b. 1955)  
 
page: 1  2  

Condon's most recent project is Kinsey (2004), a film biography of the legendary sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, which he both wrote and directed. Featuring brilliant performances by Liam Neeson as Kinsey and Laura Linney as Kinsey's wife Clara Bracken MacMillen, the film explores the contradictions of the scientist's complex personality and recreates the conditions under which he conducted his pioneering research.

A crucial element of Kinsey is its depiction of the sexual relationship between Kinsey and his younger associate Clyde Martin (Peter Sarsgaard), who also had an affair with Kinsey's wife. As he began his film, Condon said, he was skeptical about the concept of bisexuality and "less comfortable with the idea than [he] knew [he] was." In the course of making the film, however, he came to understand Kinsey as "really someone who moved on that scale"--a reference to the measuring device that Kinsey devised to describe human sexual behavior, with 0 denoting exclusively heterosexual activity and 6 exclusively homosexual.

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Condon said in a 2004 interview in The Advocate that "it was very important for [him] as a gay filmmaker that Kinsey not be a movie that could be typed exclusively as a gay film." He stated that he sees Kinsey as "truly one of the fathers of the gay movement," but added that "because [Kinsey] didn't believe in labels and because he spoke to everybody, [he, Condon] didn't want it to dominate."

What does dominate in Kinsey are the ideas that every individual's sexuality is different, that diversity is valuable, and that tolerance in sexual matters is an enormous virtue. Thus, it is entirely appropriate that a movie telling the story of the man who pioneered in collecting other people's sexual histories be structured as Kinsey's own sexual history and that that history be presented in as non-judgmental a way as Kinsey presented the histories of his subjects.

Condon saw a parallel between Kinsey and Whale, in that for each man there was a "deep connection between his personal life and the work for which he's famous." Moreover, he felt "a certain personal connection" with Kinsey, "having grown up in an Irish Catholic household with a father who was very kind but also very skittish about any mention of sex."

Indeed, one of the real virtues of Kinsey is that it recognizes the enormous contribution the sex researcher made by helping dispel some of America's widespread ignorance and skittishness about sex, including male homosexuality and female sexuality in general. Among the consequences of his work was to question the notion of "normality" in sexual behavior and to reassure sexual minorities that they were not alone.

Precisely because he told the truth about the disparity between Americans' actual sexual behavior and the rigid social and legal codes intended to regulate it, Kinsey exposed the national hypocrisy in regard to sex and helped liberate individuals from the tyranny of convention. His role as liberator is touchingly dramatized in the movie by a scene between the ill scientist and a lesbian (portrayed by Lynn Redgrave) who thanks him for having made her life altogether better. For being a liberator, however, Kinsey paid a heavy price.

As the film documents, after the publication of Kinsey's landmark books on male and female sexual behavior, he was vilified by political and religious leaders, who in effect hounded him to his death. Even today religious and social conservatives continue to defame the man and his research, accusing him of everything from condoning pedophilia to practicing "junk science" (an epithet far more applicable to their own pseudoscientific approaches than to Kinsey). Luckily, their campaign to boycott Condon's film is likely to garner greater publicity for it and increase attendance, which may in turn lead to greater appreciation for Kinsey and his remarkable achievement.

Condon lives in Los Angeles with his life partner, who is a screenwriter and director. The couple has been together since the mid-1990s.

In addition to writing and directing, Condon is on the board of IFP/Los Angeles, an association for independent filmmakers, and is also a founding member of the Independent Writers Steering Committee of the Writers Guild of America.

Since he has made films about Whale and Kinsey, Condon has found himself described as a "homosexual activist," a designation with which he is not entirely comfortable. "I'm proud to wear those stripes," he says, adding, "I just haven't done enough to earn them."

Linda Rapp
Claude J. Summers

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arts >> Overview:  Film Directors

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual film directors have been a vital creative presence in cinema since the medium's inception over one hundred years ago.

arts >> Overview:  Musical Theater and Film

The musical has been a significant aspect of American gay male culture, manifesting itself both in diva worship and, more recently, in the presentation of openly gay characters and shows written by gay writers primarily for gay audiences.

arts >> Overview:  Screenwriters

Although film may be a director's rather than a writer's medium, gay and lesbian screenwriters have made significant contributions to both mainstream and independent film.

arts >> Barker, Clive

Writer, director, and producer Clive Barker is best known for his horror fiction and movies, but is also a prolific painter and illustrator, as well as a developer of comic books and computer games.

literature >> Bram, Christopher

Christopher Bram's novels address homosexual issues in a variety of periods and locales.

arts >> Kander, John (b. 1927) and Fred Ebb (1932?-2004)

Composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb are the musical poets of the poymorphous perverse; their works glorify the creativity inherent in sexual ambivalence and celebrate unorthodox forms of political activism.

social sciences >> Kinsey, Alfred C.

The most important sex researcher of the twentieth century, Alfred C. Kinsey contributed groundbreaking studies of male and female sexual behavior in America.

arts >> McKellen, Sir Ian

Arguably the finest Shakespearean actor of his generation, Ian McKellen was the first British subject to be knighted after publicly revealing his homosexuality, an event that proved more controversial within the gay community than in the mainstream.

arts >> Whale, James

Director James Whale is best remembered for his stylish horror films and for being one of the few openly gay Hollywood figures of the 1930s.

arts >> Zadan, Craig (b. 1949), and Neil Meron (b. 1955)

Prolific film, television, and stage producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have created a diverse body of work, including a number of theatrical films and television features with glbtq themes.


    Bibliography
   

Arnold, Gary. "From Monster to Godlike Films?; The Low-Budget Adventures of a Director." Washington Times (November 22, 1998): D3.

Hartl, John. "'Monsters' Brings Unlikely Success to Indie Director." Seattle Times (November 15, 1998): M1.

Rosen, Steven. "'Gods' Gives Filmmaker His Just Due; 'Best Picture' Designation Puts Light on an Unknown." Seattle Times (December 13, 1998): H1, 6.

Steele, Bruce C. "Bill & Al's Excellent Adventure." The Advocate 927 (November 23, 2004): 70.

Vargas, Jose Antonio. "Naked Contradictions; 'Kinsey' Creator Analyzes the Famed Sex Researcher." Washington Post (November 20, 2004): C1.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Rapp, Linda ; Summers, Claude J.  
    Entry Title: Condon, William "Bill"  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated January 10, 2006  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/condon_w.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  
 

 

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