"J. Edgar" turns tables on FBI keeper of secrets

Tue Nov 8, 2011 4:12pm EST
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By Iain Blair

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - J. Edgar Hoover, America's revered and feared controversial top cop for five decades, was one of the most secretive men in government, keeping covert files on powerful figures including President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.

But now the tables are being turned on the man who helped create the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) 75 years ago as movie "J. Edgar" opens in U.S. theaters on Wednesday with an all-star cast and crew.

"I see it as a love story, a tragic love story, and that was a big part of the appeal of doing it," said director Clint Eastwood.

Written by "Milk" Oscar-winner Dustin Lance Black and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, the film addresses long-standing speculation that Hoover -- who never married -- was secretly gay and had an intimate relationship with his longtime assistant Clyde Tolson, played by Armie Hammer ("The Social Network").

"The two of them had lunch and dinner together every day, they socialized and even vacationed together," said Eastwood. "As for anything else, I leave that up to the audience to decide."

"J. Edgar" traces Hoover's life from childhood to his death in 1972, and hits all the big historical highlights -- Prohibition, the Lindbergh kidnapping, World War II, 1950s Communists, the civil rights era and the assassinations of King, Kennedy and his brother Robert F. Kennedy. Hoover personally directed the FBI's investigation into the U.S. president's killing in 1963.

But it's his private life and the few key figures in it, including his domineering mother, played by Judi Dench, and Helen Gandy, his faithful secretary for 54 years, played by Naomi Watts, that intrigued Eastwood the most.

"We never knew too much about Tolson, Gandy or any of his close confidants but (what we learned) through researching this movie," Eastwood said. "That's what's fun about making a movie, you get to learn something about people."   Continued...