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O'Haver, Tommy (b. 1967)  
page: 1  2  

In Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss, photographer Billy has hired the gorgeous Gabriel to model for a series of Polaroid pictures recreating classic love scenes from the movies but with gay men instead of heterosexual couples. Billy is smitten and hopes for a romance with Gabriel despite the fact that he keeps mentioning a girlfriend in San Francisco. When Gabriel heads to Catalina to model for a more famous photographer (played by Paul Bartel) who is also interested in him, Billy takes off in hot pursuit to try at last to win the man of his dreams.

Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss is a stylish film that combines the main action with dream sequences about Billy's hopes and anxieties about his relationship with Gabriel. The dreams, filmed in black and white, turn into scenes from Hollywood classics, with Billy and Gabriel as the romantic couples. The movie also features a trio of drag artists who function as a Greek chorus and impart their messages by lip-synching torch songs.

Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival in 1998 and at several gay film festivals around the United States. Trimark subsequently acquired the picture for cinematic distribution.

Critical response to O'Haver's debut commercial film was favorable. Louis B. Parks of the Houston Chronicle wrote, "'Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss' is a disarming romantic comedy that is long on charm, sharply observed, and bittersweet." He also commented that the movie "doesn't break any new ground, either as a gay film or romance, except for the fact of treating the whole subject as a non-issue"--a point that is hardly insignificant. Parks went on to note that "most of Billy's feelings and situation are universal, whatever the sexual preference."

O'Haver himself explained the film's appeal by saying, "I think the movie took off because it's cinematic, and people really don't expect that from indie films. Also, the lead character is honest, down-to-earth, and easy to relate to. I think everybody, gay or straight, has been in Billy's shoes at one time or another, and we're all subject to these strange laws of attraction, after all."

O'Haver's next directorial effort, Get Over It (2001), was another romantic comedy but one centered on heterosexual teenagers. The travails of lovelorn high-schoolers can often make for tedious cinema, but reviewer Bruce Westbrook noted that "Tommy O'Haver's spry sense of fun makes the movie work" and called the film "a breath of fresh air--a light-hearted musical with style for miles."

Get Over It focuses on a boy's efforts to win back his girlfriend after she has dumped him for a teen idol musician from a boy band. All three of them, plus the boy's female friend and true soulmate, take part in the production of A Midsummer's Night's Rockin' Eve, an update of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, by the high school's "sexually ambiguous drama teacher" (played by Martin Short). The film features music by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, including a disco number entitled "It's Fun to Be a Fairy."

O'Haver stated that the movie reflected "my sense of high camp," adding, "Get Over It is not a gay film, but in an effort to give the teen-comedy genre a face-lift, we've twisted the clichés a bit."

O'Haver subsequently directed a children's film, Ella Enchanted (2004), a screen adaptation of Gail Carson Levine's book of the same name (1997) retelling the Cinderella tale. At Ella's birth, her fairy godmother gives her the gift of obedience, a trait exploited by her wicked stepsisters to torment her. A handsome prince and a happy ending arrive in due course, however.

Critic Michael Booth praised the film for "the unshakable utility of its message" to young girls: "The demands of obedience should not be used to chain their souls," a lesson that may also resonate with gay and lesbian children who need to learn to value themselves for who they are.

O'Haver made a complete departure from his previous comedic work with An American Crime (2007), which he co-wrote with Irene Turner. The film tells the true story of the horrific murder of 16-year-old Sylvia Likens at the hands of Gertrude Baniszewski, who was supposed to be her caretaker, in Indianapolis in 1965. Baniszewski not only inflicted physical torture upon Likens in the guise of discipline but, in a scenario reminiscent of William Golding's Lord of the Flies (1955), also had her own children and others from the neighborhood participate in the abuse.

Of the film project O'Haver said, "As a kid growing up in Indianapolis, this was a case that was always a dark part of the town's history. I am deeply grateful that First Look and Killer Films share my passion to tell this story."

Upon its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, An American Crime received mixed reviews. Todd McCarthy of Variety felt that it lacked "a deeply felt emotional or spiritual catharsis," but Ruthe Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that the "strong stuff" of the horrific true crime story was "sensitively handled" in O'Haver's film.

O'Haver will return to gay-themed film with Breakfast with Tiffany. He and Turner are writing the script based upon Edwin James Wintle's memoir of the same name (2005), relating his experiences as a gay man who suddenly becomes the guardian of his 13-year-old niece. The film is expected to be released in 2008.

Linda Rapp

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arts >> Overview:  Film

Since cinema began, Hollywood has been fascinated with finding ways of representing homosexuality.

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:  Film Festivals

The queer film festival circuit came into its own in the early 1990s and has since burgeoned into a major international phenomenon.

arts >> Overview:  New Queer Cinema

Independent films that aggressively assert homosexual identity and queer culture, the New Queer Cinema can be seen as the culmination of several developments in American cinema.

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 >> Bartel, Paul

Independent filmmaker Paul Bartel's ultimate importance may lie less in his directorial efforts, which are variable in quality, than in his unwavering presence as an inspiring figure in the independent film world, particularly to queer filmmakers.

arts >> Hayes, Sean

Actor Sean Hayes gained renown and awards for his role as a gay character on the hit comedy series Will & Grace, but did not come out publicly as a gay man until 2010.

arts >> Shaiman, Marc (b. 1959), and Scott Wittman (b. 1955)

Composer Marc Shaiman and lyricist and director Scott Wittman, partners in life and collaborators in theater, film, and television projects, have a long list of credits in the entertainment industry.


Bartel, Paul. "Two of a Kind." The Advocate 764 (July 21, 1998): 69.

Birnie, Peter. "Screen Kiss New Indie Gem: Gay Romance a Hit at Sundance." The Gazette (Montreal) (August 8, 1998): C8.

Blackwater, Rob. "Going 'Billy' with Tommy O'Haver." SPLICEDwire (July 16, 1998).

Booth, Michael. "Hathaway Helps 'Ella' Become Enchanting Film." Denver Post (April 9, 2004): F1.

Guthmann, Edward. "Lights, Camera, Attraction: 'Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss.'" The Advocate (June 9, 1988).

Kit, Borys. "Keener, Page Charged with 'Crime' Roles." Hollywood Reporter (May 17, 2006).

McCarthy, Todd. "An American Crime." Variety (January 22-28, 2007): 26.

Mohr, Ian. "Helmer Cooks 'Breakfast.'" Daily Variety (September 29, 2005): News, 2.

O'Haver, Tommy. "Closeted Gay Movies." The Advocate 834 (March 27, 2001): 60.

Parks, Louis B. "'Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss' Is Charming, Bittersweet Comedy." Houston Chronicle (August 17, 1998): Houston, 1.

Stein, Ruthe. "Ruthe Stein at Sundance." San Francisco Chronicle (January 22, 2007): E1.

Westbrook, Bruce. "'Get Over It' Gives Teen Comedies a Good Name." Houston Chronicle (March 10, 2001): Houston, 9.

Zahed, Ramin. "O'Haver Shows Light Touch with Comedy." Daily Variety (July 16, 1998): 34.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: O'Haver, Tommy  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2006  
    Date Last Updated February 2, 2007  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2006 glbtq, Inc.  


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