Metro Weekly

Tom of Finland’s life to be turned into biopic

Credit: Tom of Finland / Wikicommons

Credit: Tom of Finland / Wikicommons

“This is the story of a man ahead of his time, bravely standing up against a world virulently against his right to be who he was — a homosexual man with homosexual fantasies.”

–Director Dome Karukoski (Heart of a LionThe Grump), speaking with Deadline Hollywood about Tuoko Laaksonen — more widely known as Tom of Finland.

Laaksonen gained notoriety in the ’50s for his stylized illustrations of men, which first appeared in Physique Pictorial — a “beefcake” magazine that circumvented censorship of male pornography at the time. As restrictions on gay pornography were relaxed during the ’60s and ’70s, Laaksonen’s work became more erotic, more open in its sexuality, typically featuring hyper masculine, muscled men, often in leather gear or uniforms.

One of Finland's Tom of Finland stamps, Credit: itella / Tom of Finland Foundation

One of Finland’s Tom of Finland stamps, Credit: itella / Tom of Finland Foundation

He would eventually produce 3,500 illustrations, with his work eventually gaining mainstream success — New York’s Museum of Modern Art has acquired several examples of his illustrations. His home country of Finland honored Laaksonen’s work and cultural impact with a series of stamps in 2014 and cultural historian Joseph W. Slade called him the “most influential creator of gay pornographic images.”

Now, Protagonist Pictures, Helsinki Film and Karukoski are developing a biopic of Laaksonen’s life story. It’s been three years in the making, but a script has been completed — courtesy of producer Aleksi Bardy — and filming is expected to start later this year in Sweden.

“The story shows how literally one person can create change in the world, even with something as simple as an artist’s tools,” Karukoski said.

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at