Showtime Balks at 'Dirty' NC-17 Rating

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Showtime is trying to get a less onerous content rating for its original movie, Dirty Pictures, which shows graphic homoerotic photographs from Robert Mapplethorpe.

The Motion Picture Association of America has initially given Dirty Pictures an NC-17 rating. The made-for-TV movie is based on the real-life story of a Cincinnati art-museum director who was indicted for displaying Mapplethorpe's photos.

A Showtime spokeswoman said last week that the premium service and the filmmakers are now working with the MPAA on editing the movie "to achieve an R rating."

Showtime's deals with some cable operators reportedly bar it from airing NC-17-rated movies in primetime. Showtime has never aired a movie that had anything stronger than an R rating.

Dirty Pictures stars James Woods as Dennis Barrie, the director of Cincinnati's Contemporary Arts Center, who was tried on obscenity charges in 1990 when he displayed an exhibit of Mapplethorpe's photos. The made-for-TV movie shows seven of the photos, which include images of nude children and sadomasochistic poses by adults.

Dirty Pictures is slated to air May 27.

At the Television Critics Association tour in January, Dirty Pictures producer Michael Manheim praised Showtime for taking on the project.

"These are the pictures that a lot of other networks wouldn't show," Manheim told the assembled TV writers. "That's certainly not the reason for doing this movie. It's not about the pictures. But the pictures are part of the story."

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