One of my first reviews for the blog was To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar. While I am not a huge fan of the film, I can understand why it is a significant piece of pop culture history. Its impact is even more significant when you realize it was released 25 years ago. The film is celebrating its 25 Anniversary this month and Today did a truly interesting deep dive on how the project came together. I personally learned a lot of things I had never heard before.
On how Spielberg got involved with the film…
Mitch Koin, an out executive at Amblin Entertainment at the time, helped get the script in front of Spielberg, along with Beane’s agent.
“Steven read the script that night — what faith he had in me, in all of us there — and loved it,” Koin wrote in 2015 . “But he needed some confirmation. It wasn’t the gay stuff that worried him; he just wanted to be sure the script was as funny to other people as he found it. So he sent it to his comedy meter: Robin Williams.”
Beane explained that Williams and Spielberg — who became friends when making “Hook” — were traveling together on a flight when Williams read the script out loud to Spielberg. His cold-reading, first-class performance was so hilarious, it “mesmerized” Spielberg.
Williams, who had just played Mrs.Doubtfire, said he couldn’t play the lead because he “wasn’t pretty enough” and he “was too hairy.” But he would love to do a small part. Casting director Kerry Barden confirmed this to TODAY, adding Williams went uncredited for his cameo because he didn’t want to draw too much attention from the actual leading ladies.
On Spielberg almost directing the film…
Kidron was pregnant when she was first hired by Spielberg for the project, who was a huge believer in her. Hiding her pregnancy for fear of being rejected, when she ultimately revealed her baby bump, she was deemed a major insurance risk. So Spielberg promised that if Kidron ever needed to step down to give birth, he would step in for her and direct.
“And so my joke has always been, ‘Why didn’t someone from the production side come push me down the stairs so they could have had Steven Spielberg making that movie?‘” Kidron said in a 2015 interview. “In fact, the movie went a little bit over, and on the last day of principal photography, I was nine months, five days pregnant, and we had to charter a plane to get the crew and the cast back to New York. When I landed in New York, my waters broke at JFK.“
You can learn more about the history of To Wong Foo by clicking here.