Bobby Griffith was only 20 years old when he took his life in 1983 after being rejected by his religious family for coming out of the closet.
After his death, his mother, Mary Griffith, reconsidered everything she thought she knew about the Bible and went onto become a gay rights activist.
Her story was chronicled by out journalist Leroy F. Aarons in his book Prayers For Bobby: A Mother’s Coming To Terms With The Suicide Of Her Gay Son.
The book was adapted into the 2009 Lifetime movie Prayers For Bobby, directed by out filmmaker Russell Mulcahy, and stars the amazing Sigourney Weaver as Mary Griffith, with Ryan Kelley as Bobby.
Click through below for 20 fascinating facts you might not have known about the powerful Prayers For Bobby.
1. Aarons wrote the book after reading an article on Bobby Griffith’s suicide.
Aarons wrote in his book, “This extraordinary conversion touched me as deeply as the tale of Bobby’s tragic death. What enabled her to transcend her background and perform what could only be described as acts of courage.”
2. The book was incredibly well received.
In 1996, Prayers for Bobby was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award.
3. Aarons was also an activist in his own right.
The journalist founded the National Lesbian And Gay Journalists Association, NLGJA, now known as The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists.
4. Aarons died before the movie was made.
Aarons died on November 28, 2004. Prayers for Bobby wasn’t released until 2009.
5. The film was critically acclaimed.
Despite being a Lifetime movie (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Prayers For Bobby was praised for its script and a strong performance by Weaver.
6. It was nominated for two Emmys…
Prayers For Bobby was nominated for Outstanding Made for Television Movie and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for Weaver.
7. …and did numbers for Lifetime.
The cable film had six million viewers over two initial viewings.
8. GLAAD recognized it, as well.
The film won Outstanding TV Movie or Miniseries.
9. Mary Griffith was Weaver’s first TV movie role.
Weaver took the role because she felt it was an important story to tell.
10. Weaver worked with the real Mary Griffith to prepare for the role.
In a retrospective interview, Weaver said, “Everything she said to me, frankly, was so revealing and so honest, and so in support of our doing and my doing a truthful job… One of the things that broke my heart, at the end of the day, we were looking at pictures of Bobby and Mary said, ‘You can look at these pictures of Bobby now and I see that this is how God wanted him to be. He wanted him to be gay, that’s who he was.’ She said, ‘I’m grateful that I can see that now.’”
11. Weaver still gets recognized for the role.
Despite being mostly known for roles like bad*ss space hero Ellen Ripley in the Alien franchise, Weaver still hears from viewers touched by Prayers For Bobby. “Wherever I go in the world, if I’m promoting something, I have the dearest young people come up to me and give me a hug and thank me for this and for being part of this,” she told TV Insider.
12. Griffith praised Weaver’s portrayal of her.
“Sigourney really expresses how assured I was that God would heal Bobby,” she told The Advocate, “as if it were a slam dunk, how afraid I was… and how I felt when I realized that nothing was wrong with Bobby [after his death].”
13. The Trevor Project honored Weaver for the movie.
Weaver was given the Trevor Life Award for her role in Prayers For Bobby. Anne Hathaway presented the award.
14. Out actor Dan Butler appears in the film.
Butler plays Rev. Whitsell, a gay minister who helps Mary come to terms with being both religious and accepting of her late son’s sexuality.
15. The film softens some aspects of Bobby’s story.
The movie doesn’t explore Bobby’s sex work and instances of theft, which occurred after he left home.
16. Griffith has a cameo in the film.
Griffith, who died in 2020, is shown in the Pride Parade at the end of the film.
17. Griffith became the president of the San Francisco chapter of PFLAG…
As Griffith became an LGBTQ+ rights activist, she and her family became heavily involved in PFLAG, eventually becoming president of her local chapter.
18. …and even testified before Congress!
On December 6, 1995, Griffith asked Congress to fund LGBTQ+ education in schools.
19. Mulcahy has frequently worked with Kelley after Prayers For Bobby.
Mulcahy directed many episodes of Teen Wolf, as well as Teen Wolf: The Movie, in which Kelley appeared as Jordan Parrish, who becomes a vessel for a Hellhound. Woof!
20. A new audiobook version of the original book was recently released with an out narrator.
Hottie Wentworth Miller narrates the audiobook, which was released by Blackstone in 2023.