Don't Ask. Don't Tell. That's the policy studio Warner Brothers was hoping for as it rolls out its massive media campaign leading up to the Christmas day opening of Sherlock Holmes. The only problem -- they forgot to tell Robert Downey Jr., the film's flamboyant star.
"Robert can't stop talking about the world's most famous Bromance. It's making studio publicists very nervous. It's almost like Downey is messing with them," a movie insider giggled about Downey's repeated hinting that Holmes' and BFF Dr. Watson's interest in each other might go further than just solving crimes.
"Two men who happen to be roommates, wrestle a lot and share a bed," Downey has said. Exactly the sort of thing the studio wishes he hadn't. You little tease!
However, I'm told what really got the big wigs at Warner Brothers knickers in a twist (that's such a gay thing to say) was when Downey told Letterman, "They were homos?... why don't we observe the clip and let the audience decide if he [Holmes] just happens to be a very butch homosexual."
Can you imagine the faces on the publicists when naughty Robert dropped that little nugget, making Paul Schaffer interject, "What are they, complete screamers?"
Was is it just me or did anyone notice how the following night, when Jude Law was a guest on Letterman, the boyish Brit happened to bring up his children from out of nowhere? Well, that backfired on whichever publicist put together those talking points. Note to Jude, if you're going to mention your children, make sure you know how many you have!
So does Warner Brothers really have anything to fear about the message Robert is sending -- or are they just acting like drama queens?
Aaron Hicklin, editor-in-chief of OUT magazine, told me, "I think Brits and homosexuality are synonymous to many Americans, so I doubt they'll be very surprised, unless Guy Ritchie has added a Bruno-style gay wedding scene to the finale."
Kenneth Sherill, Professor of Political Science at Hunter College, CUNY agrees: "Seriously, after Brokeback Mountain, I don't see why they should be scared. And doesn't it conform to all of the stereotypes of unusually bright people, attentive to details, more perceptive? Don't you have to be an outsider to see things no one else sees? It makes perfect sense to me. If anything, the titillation should increase sales."
And while professor might be right, it's a risk Warner Brothers isn't about to take. "They think the way to rule the Christmas box office is by positioning its new franchise as an action-packed adventure that will appeal to young men. Not some gay Victorian love story between a butch top and his twinky power bottom," another studio executive explained with a scary twinkle in his eye!
So Mr. Downey, when you sit down on the couch to talk to Matt Lauer, don't touch his knee or ask him about Al. Remember the brothers at Warner want you to play this one straight.
Several calls and emails to Warner Brothers representatives went unanswered until I finally got a "no thanks," from Dennis Higgins asking for comment.