John Fox, the FBI historian, said speculation about Hoover’s sexuality never got very far. “Hoover was single all those years,” Fox said. “His closest friend and associate was another man. Periodically through the history of his tenure, there was an innuendo here, an innuendo there that he was homosexual. But that was the extent of it.”
What is known is that gay men were blackballed from the FBI during that era because Hoover considered them vulnerable to blackmail if their sexual orientation were discovered.
“He thought people with homosexual tendencies were a security risk,” Schwarz said. “Everybody knew it at the time. Anybody who thought homosexuality was a security risk would not, and did not, condone that type of activity.”
Former agents who were consulted said they told the filmmakers that rumors of Hoover’s homosexuality were untrue.
Cartha “Deke” DeLoach, a former high-ranking FBI official whose office was across the hall from Hoover, said he told that to both Eastwood, who called him for advice, and Leonardo DiCaprio, the actor who played Hoover. In a sit-down meeting with DeLoach, DiCaprio asked DeLoach to help “make me Hoover.”
“He said he didn’t think the movie was going to delve into it in great length,” DeLoach said of DiCaprio. DeLoach praised both Eastwood and DiCaprio as decent men but added, “It’s wrong making insinuations [Hoover] was homosexual. I think it was an attempt to gain popularity, and they had to use several insinuations that weren’t correct.”
When Branon, of the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation, started hearing rumors the film would portray a sexual relationship between Hoover and Tolson, he wrote Eastwood a letter seeking reassurances.
“It would be a grave injustice and a monumental distortion to proceed with such a depiction based on a completely unfounded and spurious assertion,” said the letter, dated April 8 and posted on the foundation’s Web site along with Eastwood’s response.
In an April 13 letter, Eastwood wrote: “Please rest assured that we do not give any credence to cross-dressing allegations
. . . nor do we intend to portray an open homosexual relationship between Mr. Hoover and Clyde Tolson,” the letter says.
Some agents say their confidence was misplaced.
“We were led to believe this would be an accurate portrayal of Mr. Hoover,” said Thomas McGorray, who runs the e-mail list xgboys. “Everybody feels betrayed. It’s typical Hollywood. They went off on the sex stuff.”
As a technical adviser on the film, former agent Scott Nelson said he also advised the filmmakers it was “gratuitous” to include a scene showing Hoover and Tolson kissing and to show Hoover putting on his mother’s dress in his grief after she died.
But Nelson thinks some of his fellow former agents are overreacting.
“It’s a biopic. It’s not a biography,” said Nelson, who now runs his own security firm in California. “That doesn’t mean it’s factual. Agents deal in fact, and they’re offended at the literary license taken by the screenwriter. I know why they’re offended.”
However, Nelson said, the film does not disparage Hoover, and the speculative focus on his personal life was part of dramatic storytelling: “That’s Hollywood.”