Studio: Fox Searchlight (released Nov. 12)
Storyline: In telling the story of taboo-breaking sex researcher Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson), the script by director Bill Condon (right, with cast) traces his intellectual progress from his rigid upbringing to his obsessive study of galwasps to his tumultuous marriage to a former student, nicknamed Mac (Laura Linney), and his determination to catalog the vast array of human sexual experiences.
About the script: Told in flashbacks built around Kinsey’s own sexual history, the script weaves together the scientist’s personal life and work, illuminating how the two sides affected the other. After reading about Kinsey, Condon thought, “This was somebody I’d like to spend some time trying to figure out. I was struck by the contradictions. He was a scientist trying hard to take human sexuality and translate it into data that fits into little boxes, (as well as) a social reformer, trying to get people to tell people the truth about their sex lives, (while) being very secretive about his own.”
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Biggest challenge: “Kinsey is a very tough character to have at the center of a movie. He is clinical, he is a scientist, he is lecturing and hectoring and all those things that could make him a character you quickly lose patience with,” says Condon.
Breakthrough idea: “After I’d finished an entire draft, I still had not come up with the device for telling the entire life of Kinsey,” says Condon. “I’m not a big fan of just flashing back for flashback’s sake. So I sat down and took my cue from Kinsey. Kinsey’s point being ‘everyone’s sexuality is different.’ What’s unique about Kinsey? I made a list, and at the top was this incredible ability he had to interview people to elicit private information from them. I remember that he used his own sex history to teach his team. It was one of those eureka moments that truly was a light bulb going off. What if the film was Kinsey’s own sex history? It solved so many problems and I felt deeply stupid that it had taken me so long to figure it out, because once it was there, it seemed so right.”
Standout scene: Kinsey reveals to his wife that he has had sex with his research assistant Clyde Martin (Peter Sarsgaard) in a painful confrontation that tests the boundaries of philosophic beliefs and what we owe to others. “This is my favorite kind of scene, because they’re both right in some way. And they love each other. They’re trying to talk their way through something that is almost impossible to talk through.”
Choice lines: “Then you won’t mind if I ask Mac to have sex with me?” Clyde to Kinsey, asking for permission to have sex with his wife, as well.
Writer’s bio: Condon entered the film business as a journalist before becoming a screenwriter and director. His writing credits include the scripts of “Chicago” and his directing debut, “Gods and Monsters.” “Kinsey” is his second writing-directing effort.