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Women, Power & Bisexuality: Megan Ellison Greenlights Her Most Daring Project Yet

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by Alice Lytton
April 18, 2014 7:00 AM
5 Comments
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Megan Ellison at the 2014 Golden Globes with girlfriend Robyn Shapiro

Two legends of Hollywood's Golden Age are set to get a screen revival as Megan Ellison announces her Annapurna Pictures is producing a TV project about Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. 

The excitement this story prompts is only amplified by the news that it will be written by superstar partnership Alex Kondracke ("The L Word", "Hung") and Angela Robinson ("True Blood", "The L Word", "D.E.B.S."). (I don't think I'm the first queer to notice that the best "L word" episodes were often the ones written/directed by one of those two.)

If you're not yet familiar with the lives of Garbo and Dietrich there's a lot in store for you. Their stories are packed with cinematic potential: from Greta's quest for solitude in amidst the demands of Hollywood to Marlene's antithetical outspokenness, these two defined an age that some argue was better for women in film than ours is now.

Equally intriguing was their relationship with one another: for years they insisted that despite their shared milieu, they really didn't know each other. More recent work on their lives has uncovered that this not only was untrue but might have been a rouse to cover a tempestuous affair between them. Even if Robinson and Kondracke don't explore this aspect of their shared history (though I can't imagine they won't even hint at it) there will be plenty of interest for viewers looking for well-handled representation of fluid sexualities. Both women had intense love affairs with men and women, and in the case of Mercedes de Acosta, the same woman.

Megan Ellison herself started the week on OUT's "Power 50". She's openly bisexual and it's rumored that when she turned twenty-five Annapurna Pictures received a $2 billion gift from her father (and 5th richest man in the world) Larry Ellison. Money brings a whole lot of power, certainly, but it doesn't necessarily bring success. But Ellison has had plenty of that of late. "Dumb money" doesn't produce a string of critical hits that include "American Hustle" and "Her". She could easily have continued in this direction, making mainstream hits and counting the nominations as they flooded in (she was the first woman and only the fourth person to be nominated for two best picture Oscars in the same year).

Instead this powerful, openly LGBT woman has chosen to use her power to green-light an interesting project about other LGBT women.  We need to notice how rare this is, and how much better the cinematic landscape would be for LGBT audiences if it happened more often. Ellison has talked often about supporting risky films which Hollywood studios wouldn't otherwise fund, and this Garbo/Dietrich project is precisely the kind you can imagine execs rejecting for its focus on women and its queer themes. In a world that doesn't reward these things at the level of popular culture, this is a risk, and it's one we're delighted to see Ellison taking.

All the money in the universe, of course, cannot answer the one remaining question surrounding this project: who on earth can they cast to capture the singular brilliance of Garbo and Dietrich? Suggestions in the comments!


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5 Comments

  • Roberto Richardson | June 26, 2014 10:49 AMReply

    So excited about this project! I hope they'll choose two fine, American actresses to play Greta and Marlene.

  • Lucky | April 18, 2014 1:09 PMReply

    Ellison gets a lot of hate for how easily she got in the industry, but I don't see anything wrong with what she's doing. Wouldn't all of us movie geeks be doing the same if we were as loaded as her?

    As for the casting... Samantha Morton as Garbo and Gretchen Mol as Dietrich? It will be tough, that's for sure.

  • No | May 1, 2014 8:31 PM

    She inherited money and she's making movies? More power to her!

  • Joyce | April 21, 2014 5:09 PM

    Samantha Morton is a fine actress, but Greta Garbo was incredibly beautiful. I can't think of any actress today who is as beautiful. Although, perhaps Diane Kruger, if she isn't chosen to play Dietrich.

  • Alice Lytton | April 18, 2014 2:04 PM

    I couldn't agree more, Lucky. I never understand the hate thrown at rich people doing interesting, adventurous things with their money when there are so many rich people living parasitical, banal lives - much better figures for derision than Ellison!

    Morton, by the way, is an inspired choice for Garbo.

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