In a new interview with Deadline, Billy Eichner revealed that he will be playing TV icon Paul Lynde in the new biopic Man in the Box. The Difficult People star is developing the project with producer Tom McNulty, and they have optioned a script by Edwin Cannistraci.
Speaking to Deadline, Eichner discussed what he and Lynde have in common and how they were both “presenting a rather larger-than-life, flamboyant, gay persona on screen.” Even though Eichner has always been out, Lynde never officially was.
“But he was as out as you could be, at that time, in that he was clearly leaning into a flamboyant persona. Unlike Rock Hudson, and Tab Hunter, and Cary Grant, and all these other actors, he wasn’t pretending to be straight. You didn’t see him getting set up on dates with women, or having phony relationships with women, to try to present to the world as a straight man,” Eichner explained. “I think that was very admirable, for the time, and also, if you look at those jokes on Hollywood Squares, he comes as close to admitting he’s gay as you possibly can. He’s making thinly veiled, at best, references to gay sex, to finding men attractive, to swinging both ways. It’s not even subtle, and rather bold for the time.”
If you grew up watching Bewitched reruns, then you already know Lynde as Uncle Arthur. He also starred in the film adaptation of Bye Bye Birdie; voiced Templeton the rat in Charlotte’s Web; and starred in his own sitcom, The Paul Lynde Show, for one season back in 1972. However, Lynde’s lasting legacy decades later is probably his center square residency on Hollywood Squares, where for years he delivered zingers filled with sexual innuendos and references to his homosexuality. He died of a heart attack in 1982 at the age of 55.
If you watch RuPaul’s Drag Race, then you probably are familiar with BenDeLaCreme’s iconic impression of Lynde for the “Snatch Game” challenge on Season 3 of All Stars.
May we suggest Eichner just watch DeLa’s impression on repeat when preparing for the role? We’re sure she would happily give Eichner some pointers.