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OUTTAKES

Re-Oriented

December 06, 1987|George Hadley-Garcia

Ah, Hollywood. Come bio time, it just can't refrain from "straightening" out historical characters--sexually.

Proof? How about big-screen odes to Michelangelo, Roman emperor Augustus and his uncle (and sometime lover) Julius Caesar? And then there's Pu Yi--last of China's emperors and central character of "The Last Emperor."

Bernardo Bertolucci's lushly filmed, critically applauded pic depicts him as being strictly straight (although a bit of lesbianism between Pu Yi's wife and a cousin is slipped in). "We never heard otherwise about the character," said a somewhat-taken-aback rep for John Lone (who stars as the adult-age Emperor), when we informed him that various biographical sources portray a gay Pu Yi.

Foremost among them: Arnold Brackman's 1975 bio "The Last Emperor" (reprinted in 1980 under the title, "Prisoner of Peking"). Pu Yi's gay tendencies are also mentioned in the newest print bio, released in conjunction with the pic, by Newsweek's Edward Behr. They're referred to as well in certain gay publications, including the San Diego newspaper Update, in which editor Harold Fairbanks deemed "inexcusable" what he saw as Bertolucci's "deliberate attempt to 'cleanse' Pu Yi's homosexuality."

Bertolucci and co-writer Mark Peploe based their script on the Emp's Mao-approved autobio, "From Emperor to Citizen." In China, it should be noted, homosexuality is deeply taboo--and the film was shot with the full cooperation of the government-controlled Chinese film industry.

Columbia offered a nervous "no comment" when we called about Pu Yi's private life. One rep for the film burst out laughing.

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