The filmmakers originally planned a sequence discussing how gay historical figures were portrayed as heterosexual in films. They aborted the sequence when Richard Burton's estate denied the rights to Alexander the Great (1956), MGM denied use of Hans Christian Andersen (1952) (fearing that the filmmakers were trying to "out" Danny Kaye) and Charlton Heston declined use of The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965) (claiming that Michelangelo was heterosexual).
Actor Michael Ontkean not only declined to be interviewed for the documentary, but also attempted to prevent clips from his film Making Love (1982) from being shown in it. He was unsuccessful.
This documentary, which was based on the eponymous book by film scholar Vito Russo, was narrated and co-executive produced by Lily Tomlin. Russo, who died of AIDS in 1990, did not live to see the documentary. Russo and Tomlin were close friends; Russo wrote some material for her comedy shows, and while Russo was writing the book The Celluloid Closet, Tomlin let him stay, rent-free, in a house she was not using at the time.