Girl magnet, bunny magnate

Here’s the pitch: young man brought up in straitlaced family challenges taboos and single-handedly invents the sexual revolution. Watch as he goes from dashing girl-magnet indulging in his first orgy to octogenarian girl-magnet recovering from his first heart attack.

Plans were announced recently for a biopic of the life of Playboy’s founder, Hugh Hefner. The film will be directed by Brett Ratner, who made The Family Man and X-Men III. It is being produced for Universal Pictures by Brian Grazer, who was behind the slightly more cerebral A Beautiful Mind.

The agreement is not the first attempt to make a major motion picture out of Hefner’s often colourful life story. Oliver Stone, himself known for his willingness to challenge taboos, worked through several drafts of a script before giving up on the project. And Scott Silver, the writer behind 8 Mile, attempted unsuccessfully to make a musical out of the tale of poolside bunnies at Hefner’s Playboy mansion.

Hefner sold the rights to his life story to Grazer several years ago, but the two were never able to agree on a script.

“Hef came from a puritanical upbringing and reinvented himself to be the godfather of the sexual revolution,” Ratner told the show business magazine Variety. “He also used his magazine to advocate civil rights and free speech and put James Brown on his show Playboy After Dark, when they didn’t put black performers on national television. He broke all kinds of taboos, especially in sexuality. I want to show it all, from the First Amendment struggles to his first orgy to the stroke in the 1980s that almost killed him.”

Hefner founded Playboy in 1953 with an investment of just $600. The magazine pushed the boundaries of acceptable nudity in the prurient atmosphere of the 1950s and 1960s. At the same time, Hefner used the magazine to challenge censorship, advance various libertarian causes and showcase fine writers. He once told a gathering of bunnies: “Without you, I would be the publisher of a literary magazine.”

Literary pretensions aside, Hefner and his creation are best known for the creation of a world peopled by pneumatic blondes wearing bunny ears and gentlemen in silk pyjamas. At the outset of the enterprise, Hefner described the reader he was catering for: “We like our apartment. We enjoy mixing up cocktails and an hors d’oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex.”

After experimenting with marriage, Hefner surrounded himself with a coterie of live-in lover-companions, including a “primary girlfriend”. This arrangement was the subject of a TV reality show, The Girls Next Door.

The question of who should portray Hef will surely exercise Hollywood’s finest minds over the coming months. The suave sophistication Hefner thinks he exudes may suggest a British actor to some, perhaps Hugh Grant or Jeremy Irons. Leonardo DiCaprio, with his penchant for embodying major figures in United States history, may also fit the dressing gown. — Â

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