Over the years, Miami has served as the backdrop for hundreds of Hollywood movies. In Celluloid City, we spotlight some of the classics shot right in our own backyard.
Anyone who's seen the 1978 French comedy La Cage Aux Folles, or better yet, a live production, knows that Mike Nichol's The Birdcage
is like the light beer version of the French classic. That being said,
the 1996 American version of the film was not only funny, but it also
helped further tolerance towards the gay community in the United States.
In 1996, almost a decade before Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Project Runway took over water cooler talk and Bravo, Nichols (The Graduate, Silkwood) decided that Americans needed a big, screaming dose of GAY. Putting together a stellar ensemble cast, including Robin Williams, Hank Azaria, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman, and Dianne Wiest, Nichols transplanted the plot of La Cage Aux Folles from the French Riviera to the American Riviera--South Beach. The film also features Calista Flockhart at her skeletal best.
Here's the trailer:
Keeping true to the original, The Birdcage is a comedy of errors. Williams and Lane are the gay parents of a straight male (Dan Futterman) who is engaged to marry the daughter (Flockhart) of a right-wing senator played by Hackman. Futterman is scared about how his fiancée's conservative parents will react to his flamboyant "mom" (Lane) and asks his non-traditional parents to step back in the closet, at least until after they meet his future in-laws.
The Carlyle Hotel in Miami Beach was the setting for the titular drag show club owned by Williams in the film. The film also shot in various locations along Ocean Drive and in the surrounding Art Deco District. It was almost completely shot during daylight hours and doesn't transform the Beach into something unrecognizable landscape. You'll recognize Miami Beach in The Birdcage, Check out the image below for a shot of Lane and Williams sitting on a bus bench with a view of our fair city behind them.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration. The Birdcage garnered a slew of nominations from other award entities as well, including the MTV Movie Awards, the Golden Globes, the GLAAD Media Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and the Writers Guild of America. It won a SAG award for Best Performance by a Cast and Hackman and Wiest each won a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Supporting Actor in a Comedy. The Birdcage also kicked some tulle-covered ass in the box office, opening at #1, proving ahead of its time that people love to watch the gays.