-- WASHINGTON — The director and star of the upcoming Hollywood film on J. Edgar Hoover sought information from officials at FBI headquarters about disputed aspects of the iconic former FBI director's sexual life while preparing the movie.
Assistant FBI Director Mike Kortan said that in separate meetings this year with director Clint Eastwood and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays Hoover in the film scheduled for release next month, both men broached the issue of Hoover's sexuality. They were told, "Vague rumors and fabrications have cropped up from time to time, but there is no evidence in the historical record on this issue."
Kortan said the Hollywood film titans requested the meetings. He said the bureau did not attempt to shape the outcome of the movie, titled J. Edgar.
"We provided information so that their story could be accurate," he said. "What they did with it, as with any production, has been entirely in their hands," he said.
Groups of former agents have campaigned forcefully against any depiction of the long-rumored sexual relationship between Hoover and former top aide Clyde Tolson.
"There is no basis in fact for such a portrayal of Mr. Hoover," William Branon, chairman of The J. Edgar Hoover Foundation, wrote to Eastwood this year. "It would be a grave injustice and monumental distortion to proceed with such a depiction based on a completely unfounded and spurious assertion."
The Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI fired off a similar missive, saying a "rumored kissing scene," reported in early media accounts involving the actors portraying Hoover and Tolson, "caused us to reassess our tacit approval of your film."
Eastwood and DiCaprio were not available for comment. Eastwood and producer Robert Lorenz responded to the foundation in a letter in April, saying they gave no "credence to cross-dressing allegations" that also have shadowed Hoover and did not intend to portray "an open homosexual relationship" between Hoover and Tolson.
William Baker, a former agent and Hoover foundation vice president, characterized Eastwood's letter as "polite, but non-committal."
"Concern still persists," Baker said. None of the agents interviewed has seen the film. What alarms them is what Baker has heard from people familiar with the movie and a suggestive image in the movie's trailer: Hoover's character clutching the hand of Tolson, played by Armie Hammer.
"We're caught in a dilemma here," Baker said. "We don't want to support something not based in fact, but we're not against the new FBI and diverse workplace."
Cartha "Deke" DeLoach, a former top aide to the FBI director, said he and DiCaprio discussed Hoover's private life as part of the actor's three-hour visit to DeLoach's South Carolina home.
"When the subject of homosexuality came up, I made it very clear that I never saw any evidence of it whatsoever," said DeLoach, 91, who served as Hoover's deputy director for more than five years. "I traveled with him, I ate in his home and he in mine. I knew Clyde Tolson to be Mr. Hoover's companion and best friend. When you are somebody like Mr. Hoover, I guess you need somebody to talk to."