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"Gods and Monsters"

The 'Gods and Monsters' of James Whale

Web posted on:
Thursday, November 05, 1998 3:50:38 PM EST

From Correspondent Dennis Michael

HOLLYWOOD (CNN) -- He's the pioneering filmmaker who brought to life "Frankenstein," leading audiences into the realm of horror movies that still influence films today. But James Whale is perhaps remembered more for challenging and shocking early Hollywood by living an openly gay lifestyle.

Now his story is being told in the new movie "Gods and Monsters," starring Sir Ian McKellen and Brendan Fraser.

McKellen, who is also openly gay, discovered much to admire about Whale and his films.

"I think I had underestimated them and it took getting involved with the real James Whale and our version of part of his life to appreciate that these really were masterpieces filled with a real style, a real cunning and a wonderful sense of humor," says McKellen, who is also seen in theaters in the current release "Apt Pupil." "He wanted to make profound pieces, and it's a sad story that he isn't remembered for those films. That satisfied him more as an artist."

Fraser plays Whale's unlikely friend, a straight handyman who begins to symbolize the legendary monster to the dying director, decades after his glory days.

Fears of many kinds

Although "Gods and Monsters" deals with fears of many kinds, some actors would be scared away from a film with frank gay themes. Fraser says he had no such concerns.

James Whale brought "The Bride of Frankenstein" to the screen

"I think acting is risky," he says. "I think that one needs to take chances in the work in order to grow, and become better. So for that reason, I agree it is a departure from the work I've done. But for that reason also, I think it's essential to balance the trajectory of a film career with choices that are different from one another."

Horror author Clive Barker served as the film's executive producer, and says he felt a special connection to the project.

"Whale was gay, I'm gay; Whale was English, I'm English," Barker says. "Whale made some horror movies, and I've made some horror movies. It seemed as if I should be helping to tell this story."

"Gods and Monsters" is now playing in select theaters nationwide.

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