The first and probably only X-Rated film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Nobody’s making them anymore, because no theater chain will show them. And it’s hard to see where the X came from. (It was changed to an R in 1971, without any changes being made.) We see movies more hardcore than this every day in the 21st century. But, we must remember, this was pretty damn ground-breaking at the time.
Homosexuality was hardly addressed at all in the movies. This movie paints a vivid picture of the bottom of the gay barrel, which is street hustlers. In my street days in Los Angles in the ‘60s I used to see them all up and down Santa Monica Boulevard, which was the gay stroll in those days. Shadowy creatures standing in doorways, watching the passing cars. Some actually dressed as cowboys, though black leather was more popular. It looked like a hard way to earn a living, not to mention dangerous.
The screenplay here is fabulous. It’s by Waldo Salt, who I met briefly when he was being asked to look at my treatment for Millennium. He passed on it, which is one of the reasons I ended up with the assignment. He seemed like a nice guy, and he was a hell of a writer. Then Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman took his words and made magic with them. Both were nominated for the Oscar, which was probably bad news, as they may have split the vote. John Wayne won, for True Grit, and I can’t deny that it was a towering performance. But I think Hoffman’s performance was the best that year—one of the best of all time—and I wouldn’t even have thought it was a big mistake if Voight had won. The Duke was the sentimental favorite, too, of course.
One of the most interesting sequences these days is the gathering of the ultra-trendy at a party near the end. It was obviously patterned on Andy Warhol’s Factory, and all those tragically hip seekers after more and more meaningless ways to waste their lives. Many of Warhol’s talentless leeches are actually there, including Ultra Violet, International Velvet, and Paul Morrissey. How vacuous it all looks today. How vacuous it was.
The opening scenes were shot in and around Big Spring, Texas, where I have a whole lot of relatives. If I was Joe Buck, I’d have gotten my cowboy ass out of there as soon as possible, too. Come to think of it, I got my non-cowboy ass out of Texas as soon as I could, too.