It was voted one of Australia’s 100 Favourite books and adapted for the stage in 2006, touring all the major Australian cities as well as London’s West End. Now, Holding The Man, the hugely successful and much-loved memoir of writer, actor & activist Timothy Conigrove, is heading for the big screen.
It tells the story of the 15 year love affair between Conigrove and John Caleo, the college classmate and captain of the football team whom he met at an all-boys Jesuit Catholic school in Melbourne in the 1970s. It was a relationship that endured throughout their lives despite disapproval, constraints and temptations, and is funny, moving and touching. The cult classic – which won the United Nations Human Rights Award for Non-Fiction in 1995 – was published a few months after Conigrave’s death in February of that year, and two years after the death of Caleo. Both men had contracted HIV in 1985.
Conigrave is played by one of Australia’s hottest young actors, Ryan Corr. The recipient of the Australians in Film ‘Heath Ledger Scholarship’ in 2011, he was nominated for the 2013 Best Supporting Actor AACTA for Not Suitable For Children, and most recently appeared as Art in Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner. John Caleo is played by East of Everything‘s Craig Stott and they are supported by a first class line-up of acting talent, including Guy Pearce, Sarah Snook, Kerry Fox and Anthony Lapaglia.
Such is the influence of Conigrave’s autobiographical tale that the grammy award-winning English singer-songwriter, Sam Smith, said recently that the book changed his life, and that: “The most powerful thing for me was how this book captured what it’s like to grow up gay and all those confusing scary and amazing moments I had coming out and realising who I was.”
In an interviewing with Time Out Australia, screenwriter Tommy Murphy – who also wrote the stage adaptation – was asked if the film will become just as important and significant as the book. He replied: “If the film can touch people, if it can make them laugh, make them hold the people they love more tightly, and if it can do that to even part of the extent that I know this book has made people experience that array of feelings, well, yeah that’d be great.”
Directed by Neil Armfield (Candy, Twelfth Night) from a script by Tommy Murphy, Holding The Man made it’s debut at the Sydney Film Festival in June 2015, and is the Centerpiece Gala at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) on 8th August, before going on general release on 27th August.