Premium Content:

On This Gay Day | Film director Franco Zeffirelli died in 2019

Franco Zefferelli is remembered for his films and operas

Zeffirelli is remembered for his 1967 adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, which starred Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. He has found great success the following year with another of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Romeo and Juliet.

His later film work turned to biblical stories including the highly successful 1970’s TV series Jesus of Nazareth. As the 1970’s came to a close he made more contemporary films including The Champ starring Jon Voight, Faye Dunaway and Rick Schroder, and Endless Love with Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt. Endless Love also featured the screen debut of Tom Cruise in a minor role.

- Advertisement -

In 1990 he was praised for another Shakespearean work, his adaptation of Hamlet featured Mel Gibson, Helena Bonham-Carter, Glenn Close, Alan Bates, Ian Holm and Stephen Dillane.

His later films including Tea with Mussolini, which drew upon elements of his own life, while his final film was Callas Forever traced the life of Italian opera diva Maria Callas, who he had directed in several operas.

Zeffirelli was born out of wedlock, and often teased by relatives for his illegitimacy. His mother died when he six years old and he was raised by a variety of relatives and under the auspice of a group of elder American and British woman who lived in Rome. Referred to as the Scorpini, Zeffirelli later told their story in his acclaimed film.

The director was a strict Roman Catholic, but was often criticised for his depictions of biblical characters in his works. He was also criticised by the LGBTI community for his support of the church’s stance on homosexuality, despite being a homosexual himself.

The director said he preferred to be called a homosexual, arguing that the term gay was less elegant.

He caused controversy when he said told a newspaper in 2006 that while he had been sexually abused by a priest as a child, he had not suffered any harm.

Zeffirelli confirmed his sexuality in 1996, but rarely made any mention of his personal life. He later formally adopted two adult men who he had worked with for many years.

The director was also accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour on more than occasion. Bruce Robinson, who played Bolivio in Romeo and Juliet, said he was the target of unwanted sexual advances. Robinson later based the character of Uncle Monty in the cult classic Withnail and I.

In 2018 actor Johnathon Schaech alleged that Zeffirelli sexual assaulted him when they were filming Sparrow in the early 1990s. Zeffirelli’s representative’s denied the allegation.

Zefferelli passed away on this day in 2019 at his home in Rome. He was 96 years old. The Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte led the tributes saying he was “profoundly moved by the death of Zeffirelli, who was an Italian ambassador of cinema, art and beauty.”

In December 2022 actors Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whitling, the stars of Zeffirelli’s 1968 production of Romeo and Juliet filed a lawsuit against film company Paramount over the nude scenes they were forced to film when they were teenagers. In May 2023 a Californian judge signaled the lawsuit would most likely be dismissed.

Also on this day

Actor Simon Callow was born on this day in 1949. He’s best known for his role in the romantic comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral where he played the exuberant Gareth – the life of any party.

Callow is considered one of the greatest actors of his generation appearing in films including Amadeus, Room With a View, Maurice, Postcards from the Edge, Howard’s End, Notting Hill and Jefferson in Paris.

He also had a successful acting career on stage in both dramas and musicals, been an acclaimed theatre director and a writer.

Neil Patrick Harris also celebrates his birthday today. His career kicked off in the 1980’s where as a child-actor he starred in the television show Doggie Howser MD. He’s also found success in the long running sit-com How I Met Your Mother, It’s a Sin, and many films. More recently he’s appeared in the series Uncoupled and completed a memorable guest spot in Doctor Who.

On this day in 1999 Boyzone singer Stephen Gately came out. He wed partner Andrew Cowles first in a Las Vegas commitment ceremony in 2003, and more formally in a 2006 civil partnership. He died unexpectedly in 2009 from an un-diagnosed congenital heart condition.

Denmark became the 11th country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage. They changed their laws on this day in 2012.

Prince William appeared on the cover of British queer magazine Attitude on this day in 2016. In an accompanying interview he speaks out against bullying.

In 2017 Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic nominates Ana Brnabic as Prime Minister. She’s the first woman and first openly gay politician to occupy the role in the highly conservative country. Her appointment made her the second lesbian head of government, following Iceland’s Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir who was elected in 2008. She is also the fifth gay head of government overall.

Image: Wikipedia, published a Creative Commons Share Alike Unported License. OIP Staff, This post was first published in 2022 and has been updated. 

Latest

Actor Shannen Doherty, star of ‘Charmed’ and ‘Beverly Hills 90210’ dies aged 53

The actor had battled cancer for many years and publicly shared her struggle.

Fresh Tracks | The latest tunes worth checking out

New music featuring Kylie Minogue, Bebe Rexha, Tove Lo, Orville Peck and Beck, and many more.

On This Gay Day: Marriage equality was passed in England

Britain's parliament passes laws allowing same-sex marriage on this day in 2013.

Christian lobbyist Wendy Francis announces her retirement

The ACL staffer has been a vocal opponent to drag queens, marriage equality and conversion therapy bans.

Newsletter

Don't miss

Actor Shannen Doherty, star of ‘Charmed’ and ‘Beverly Hills 90210’ dies aged 53

The actor had battled cancer for many years and publicly shared her struggle.

Fresh Tracks | The latest tunes worth checking out

New music featuring Kylie Minogue, Bebe Rexha, Tove Lo, Orville Peck and Beck, and many more.

On This Gay Day: Marriage equality was passed in England

Britain's parliament passes laws allowing same-sex marriage on this day in 2013.

Christian lobbyist Wendy Francis announces her retirement

The ACL staffer has been a vocal opponent to drag queens, marriage equality and conversion therapy bans.

Fitness guru Richard Simmons dead at 76

His death comes just a day after he celebrated his birthday.

Actor Shannen Doherty, star of ‘Charmed’ and ‘Beverly Hills 90210’ dies aged 53

The actor had battled cancer for many years and publicly shared her struggle.

Fresh Tracks | The latest tunes worth checking out

New music featuring Kylie Minogue, Bebe Rexha, Tove Lo, Orville Peck and Beck, and many more.

On This Gay Day: Marriage equality was passed in England

Britain's parliament passes laws allowing same-sex marriage on this day in 2013.