Finland’s Oscars selection committee announced earlier this week that they have selected Tom of Finland to represent the country for this year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
The committee—which is made up of local film professionals—said that the biopic is a “beautiful portrait of one of the most internationally famous Finns” and they commended Pekka Strang, who plays the artist, for his “interpretation of Touko Laaksonen’s unique life.”
The Finnish Film Foundation also added that “the film is a wonderfully designed and shot period piece.”
Laaksonen’s drawings of hyper-sexualized macho men have been a favorite of gay men for decades and are now being appreciated by legitimate culture and arti critics. It turns out his life was just as fascinating as his artwork.
Born the son of schoolteachers in 1920, Laaksonen was drafted into the Finnish army during WWII and served as a anti-aircraft officer alongside Nazi officers, who inspired his fascination with men in uniform.
“The whole Nazi philosophy, the racism and all that, is hateful to me. But, of course, I drew them anyway,” he said. “They had the sexiest uniforms!”
In the 1950s Laaksonen lives a double life—working as a advertising artist and pianist by day and an erotic mastermind by night.
“It’s impossible to overstate the impact Tom’s work has had on the image and self-image of gay men all over the world,” biopic producer Aleksi Bardy told Variety.
“He created the archetypes that now form an integral part of the iconography of popular culture, both gay and straight.”
Tom of Finland has been making the film festival rounds all year and will finally hit theaters on October 13.
Finland has never won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, and the last time it was nominated was in 2002 for The Man Without a Past.
The 90th Academy Awards will air on March 4, 2018.