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I spoke with Nicholas Wrathall on June 26, 2013, the day that the Supreme Court overturned DOMA and Proposition 8, paving the way for same-sex couples to be legally married. It was another moment when I missed having Gore Vidal around for his biting, incisive wit and blazing intelligence, making the scheduled interview about the social and political gadfly all the more welcome. Wrathall, a friend of Vidal’s family, had, as they say, unprecedented access to his subject, including the moments such as Vidal gliding past former protégé Christopher Hitchens with a snub colder than an Antarctic winter, packing up the home he shared with his late, longtime partner Howard Austen, and musing about his own mortality as well as the state of the world and his own past. The resulting doc, GORE VIDAL: THE UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA is a multi-faceted portrait of Vidal, and, for me at least, makes his passing all the more sad for what he could be writing, saying and doing these days.
GORE VIDAL: THE UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA is Wrathall’s vibrant, intelligent portrait of the writer, raconteur and gadfly filmed at the end of Vidal’s life. Unprecedented access, thanks a connection with Vidal’s nephew, Burr Steers, allowed Wrathall to capture quiet moments of reflection as well as the man’s intellect as he holds forth on his life, times, and legacy. And what a legacy it is, novels, plays, essays, and countless television appearances commenting on the political and cultural issues of the day, Vidal also ran for office, including a run for the senate from California against Jerry Brown in the early 1980s. Vidal’s credentials were impeccable when it came to American politics, step-brother to Jackie Kennedy Onassis, grandson of Tennessee senator Thomas Burr, he was the intimate of the powerful, though not always their supporters.
I started with the obvious question. What was it about Gore Vidal that inspired Wrathall to make his film about him, before moving on to why he wanted to film Vidal at his future gravesite, and what they talked about at their initial meeting, a family Easter lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Click on the link to listen to the interview (19:56) GORE VIDAL: THE UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA — Nicholas Wrathall Interview.