According to Deadline, Billy Eichner of On The Street fame is working with producer Tom McNulty to develop a biopic about Paul Lynde from Bye Bye Birdie, Bewitched, and (for many, many years) Hollywood Squares. The two of them have big plans for this, meaning it won’t be a straightforward account of Lynde’s life, with Eichner saying he doesn’t want this to be like the biopics about gay icons that simply presents them as “martyrs” or “victims.”
Instead, he wants the movie—Man In The Box—to show that Lynde was a complicated person whose career was very clearly held back both because of his sexuality (though he was never publicly “out”) and his own personal issues. Eicher explains that Lynde spent years “waiting around” for someone to come along and write some great thing specifically for him and his sensibilities, but it never happened because the entertainment industry never rallied around him like it did for other talented funny people—despite the enormous amount of mainstream popularity he got from Hollywood Squares.
The Deadline piece actually features an extended interview with Eichner about this project and what drew him to Lynde, and he says he also wants to use it to illustrate how much work Hollywood still needs to do in terms of representation for gay actors. He notes that Elton John, Freddie Mercury, and Harvey Milk were played by straight actors in their biopics, with those straight actors being applauded for their performances, but Hollywood treats it like a joke when an actor who is typically presented as “flamboyant” or “effeminate” tries to play the opposite. He says he’s heard stories in relatively recent times about actors who weren’t “out” being turned down for major roles because studios thought they might come out someday, and he also mentions that the potential cast lists for the rom-com he’s making with Judd Apatow consistently had tons of straight actors—or even exclusively straight actors—for gay characters.