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Condon, William "Bill" (b. 1955)  
 
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Bill Condon has earned critical acclaim for directing and writing the films Gods and Monsters, about openly gay director James Whale, and Kinsey, on the life of the famed sex researcher. Among Condon's other writing credits is the Academy Award-nominated script for the movie musical Chicago.

William Condon was born October 22, 1955 into an Irish Catholic family in Queens, New York. He attended Regis High School, an all-male Jesuit institution in Manhattan. He found high school "liberating" since "the priests were much more radical than you could ever hope to be," especially in actively opposing the war in Vietnam.

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In his sophomore year of high school Condon began his first serious romance, a two-year relationship with a young man in the class ahead of his. Condon's parents eventually learned of the love affair and spoke about it at first, but subsequently "it was never talked about," Condon recalled.

Condon earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Columbia University. Following his graduation in 1976 he moved to Los Angeles, planning to establish residency and then pursue film studies at UCLA.

In the interim Condon began freelancing as a writer. One of his articles in the movie periodical Millimeter caught the eye of British producer Michael Laughlin, who hired him to write scripts for two horror films, Strange Behavior (1981) and Strange Invaders (1983), both of which Laughlin directed. Although Strange Behavior was set in Illinois, it was filmed in New Zealand, so all the Americans on hand were pressed into service for bit parts. Thus, Condon made his screen debut as the first victim of a mad doctor. He has since appeared occasionally in other movies.

Condon continued in the horror genre, revising the script of a screenplay originally titled The Louisiana Swamp Murders into a movie called Sister, Sister that he directed in 1987. The film flopped, putting Condon into what he described as "film director's jail"--making movies, including crime thrillers such as Murder 101 (1991), for cable television, some of which he produced as well as wrote and directed.

After several such efforts he returned to the big screen with the 1994 film Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, which was based on a short story by Clive Barker, whom he met during the shooting of the movie in New Orleans.

Making Candyman was a turning point in Condon's career. He learned about financing independent films, and the contacts that he made helped him secure the movie rights to Christopher Bram's novel Father of Frankenstein about director James Whale. Barker agreed to serve as executive producer of the film, which was realized as Gods and Monsters in 1998.

Bringing the project to fruition was a considerable challenge. Condon was disappointed that although the distinguished actor Sir Ian McKellen was slated to play Whale, even production companies that had previously backed films with gay themes showed little interest in funding Gods and Monsters. Eventually a small company, Lion's Gate, provided a three-million-dollar budget--modest by Hollywood standards--and the film was shot in a mere four weeks. The demanding schedule was necessary because of McKellen's pending commitment to appear at the National Theatre in London.

McKellen, then 59, was at first reluctant to play the septuagenarian Whale since he had recently accepted another role as an older man and was afraid of becoming typecast. Condon allayed his fears by pointing out that he would also be playing Whale in his forties in flashback scenes. Upon seeing a picture of the 40-something Whale, McKellen declared him "rather dishy," and the die was cast.

Other actors in the film included sweet-natured hunk Brendan Fraser, somewhat miscast as the young gardener whom Whale hopes will assist him in committing suicide, Lolita Davidovich as the gardener's girlfriend, and Lynn Redgrave as Whale's devoted Hungarian housekeeper, who fears that "Mister Jimmy" will go to hell because he is gay.

Gods and Monsters opened to enthusiastic critical response, winning numerous awards at film festivals. When the Academy Awards for the year were given out, McKellen's extraordinary performance was overlooked, but Condon's script earned him an Oscar for best adapted screenplay.

Condon received a second Academy Award nomination for the superb script that translated the cynical Kander and Ebb musical hit Chicago from the stage to the screen. Rob Marshall directed the movie version in 2002.

Acclaimed as the best movie musical in years, Chicago is actually the product of the collaboration of several out gay men, including--in addition to Condon and Marshall--executive producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan. Winner of an Academy Award as Best Motion Picture of the year, it may have done more than any other recent film to resurrect the musical as a viable film genre.

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