"The Mayor of Castro Street," Randy Shilts' 1982 book about slain S.F. supervisor-gay activist Harvey Milk, gets another chance as a feature: independent producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have optioned rights and plan a $6-million film as the first in a multipic deal with Cineplex Odeon.
"I was afraid this story might get lost in the AIDS era," said Shilts, whose latest book, "And the Band Played on: People, Politics and the AIDS Epidemic," is just reaching bookstores--and also getting inquiries from producers. "But I think the successful release of 'Maurice' (the Merchant-Ivory production of E. M. Forster's homosexual love story) proves you can tell an affirmative, gay story without fear of an AIDS backlash."
Producer Joe Hamilton got the first option on "Mayor" in 1982 but found no financial backing. It's "floated around the Hollywood ozone" ever since, said Shilts. One interested producer would have "de-emphasized Harvey Milk's gayness, which would be like de-emphasizing that Martin Luther King Jr. was black."
Zadan, added Shilts, has promised to film "a political story about a guy fighting for a cause."
Twentieth Century Fox has Alice Hoffman adapting her own upcoming Putnam novel, "At Risk," for what could become the first major movie to deal with AIDS--in this case, about an afflicted young girl.