Hit and Miss

Written in 1975.

Following The Sex Thief and Eskimo Nell in the early 1970's, Armstrong's long time friend, Martin Campbell directed several ads for The Creative Partnership and, with the company's managing director, Jim Sturgeon, asked Armstrong if he would write him a fun suspense thriller in the tradition of classic Hitchcock films, in particular, North By Northwest - but with a contemporary angle. The idea being that Sturgeon would produce and Campbell would direct.

If they had hoped for something quick and easy to finance, they were to be sorely disappointed. Armstrong enthusiastically took them at their word and wrote a pastiche comedy thriller with glamorous locations, huge set pieces, traditional villains and a central relationship based on all the classic Hitchcockian hero/heroine sparring partners - except, this time, instead of a heroine, there were two heroes and they were both gay.

"It was never intended to be a gay movie in a polemic sense," Armstrong points out. "At that time, the few films commercially brave enough even to refer to male homosexuality let alone depict it had been extremely rare - most notably, Victim, The Leather Boys and those adapted from the theatre, Staircase, Entertaining Mr Sloane, A Taste Of Honey and Boys In The Band. With the exception of Sloane and the rest of Orton's writing, they were all socially conscious tomes showing the terrible problems and miseries endured by homosexual men in an ostracising and bigoted society. None of the films had even enjoyed the kind of commercial exposure granted to those depicting lesbianism - always hugely acceptable by mainstream heterosexual audiences as erotica for all the wrong reasons. So, what I thought would be interesting would be to make a movie where a mainstream audience was confronted with having to accept a male homosexual relationship on screen in exactly the same way that they would be asked to accept the depiction of a heterosexual relationship - with no attempt by the film-makers to justify it, apologise for it, be self-conscious or charitable about it or anything, really. They'd sit through a fun film like North By Northwest or Donen's Charade with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn and that would be it - except that for the Hepburn role they would cast this really cute boy...and it would make absolutely no difference to the film whatsoever! In other words, hetro, homo - it didn't matter. The film was completely non-judgmental and non-justifying about people's sexual preferences, accepting that people are people and relationships are relationships - something that the villains in the movie fail to realise - which is the Hitchcock MacGuffin that sets the whole ball rolling. It was from that premise that I set about the task of writing a lightweight comedy thriller without any greater purpose than to provide an evening's enjoyable and fairly mindless entertainment."

When presented with the first draft, both Campbell and Sturgeon liked the screenplay. It was, however, going to be too expensive to make without the backing of a major Hollywood studio - and the MacGuffin proved just too politically daunting for studio executives to encompass. Predictably, there were suggestions to make the screenplay more acceptable by changing the character of Christian into that of a girl - ironically followed by "and you wouldn't even have to change anything!" - but, somehow, when read in that light, the script lost its edge and so the project was never realised...and the screenplay designated to the Armstrong shelf.

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