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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Must gay actors stay in the closet if they want to be stars?

It almost doesn’t bear asking, since, clearly, plenty of gay actors have been so convincing as straight characters — which most roles still are, even today — that no one has questioned it: Meredith Baxter, who just came out as a lesbian, was America’s (hetero) mom for years on Family Ties; or Rock Hudson, who had a generation of women swooning over him. Sure, Hudson was of the era when speculation over who is or isn’t gay simply didn’t occur as a subgenre of celebrity gossip, but I think it’s a fair bet to say that learning for certain that some major hetero heartthrob was definitely gay wouldn’t change his (or her) attraction to fans.

Or maybe I’m wrong. There’s a big difference between rumors and reality. Can coming out of the closet hurt an actor’s career? Rupert Everett thinks so, as he told the Guardian recently:

The fact is that you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25-year-old homosexual trying to make it in the British film business or the American film business or even the Italian film business. It just doesn’t work and you’re going to hit a brick wall at some point. You’re going to manage to make it roll for a certain amount of time, but at the first sign of failure they’ll cut you right off. And I’m sick of saying, ‘Yes, it’s probably my own fault.’ Because I’ve always tried to make it work and when it stops working somewhere, I try to make it work somewhere else. But the fact of the matter is, and I don’t care who disagrees, it doesn’t work if you’re gay….

It’s not that advisable to be honest. It’s not very easy. And, honestly, I would not advise any actor necessarily, if he was really thinking of his career, to come out.

Why is this true of supposedly liberal Hollywood?

Being in Hollywood is like being in the Christian right these days. It’s very, very right wing, no matter how much they claim they’re all Democrats and they’re fighting for Barack Obama. I was in Hollywood a lot in the build-up to the Iraq war and there wasn’t anybody who was against it. It was as if the American people were unable to access anything outside that bubble of cinematic reality, J-Lo’s bum, Ben Affleck, all that. They couldn’t access Iraq, they’re absolutely addicted to this extraordinary version of life, this warped mirror of society that the Hollywood studio system has produced. These huge groups like Viacom produce these extraordinary stories where the good win and the bad lose and the villain smokes a cigarette and young couples don’t have sex and everyone says ‘Gosh!’ at worst. It’s this whole language of political correctness, which I think is the closest thing to evil.

Can this really be true? Must gay actors stay in the closet if they want to be stars?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • LaSargenta

    Oh, yes. I think he’s pretty accurate. I mean, of course he is accurate as far as his experience, but, yes, I think this could be extrapolated.

    In the US (possibly other places, too, but I know here in the US), there is also a necessity to be one or the other. Like if a male actor is discovered to have had any homosexual encounters, he has to be gay. I remember reading some tell-all gossip book years ago that related how Clark Gable had gotten at least one BJ from some man (I can’t remember who, except he was also a good friend of Carole Lombard’s) and the author — NOT Carol Lombard, who would presumably be in a position to have an opinion on the matter — used this as the PROOF…PROOF I tell you! that Clark Gable was really g.a.y.

    The not-so-subtext in that book was that that news should unseat Gable from his even-posthumously-to-this-day reputation as playing extremely believable he-men.


    Anyhow, personally, I’m with Gore Vidal on the matter of homosexuality: There are no “homosexuals” only homosexual acts.

  • Rob

    I take everything said by Rupert Everett with a grain of salt, as he has proven himself over the years to be an obstinate, arrogant ass. There is some truth to what he says, but it doesn’t explain success stories like Neil Patrick Harris, who can come out, star in Broadway musicals, and also still be accepted as a womanizer on a hit sitcom. One thing to remember about Rupert Everett is that he came out quite a number of years ago already, and the cultural acceptance of gays has changed quite a bit since then. It’s certainly not perfect now, but it’s miles ahead of what it was before, thanks to shows like Will and Grace, Six Feet Under, Queer as Folk, Brothers and Sisters, Ugly Betty, and others.

  • Lisa

    Hollywood seems to be a pretty conservative place – look at their product.

    I think that if you want to be a star or in a place like Tom Cruise then yeah you have to hide it. Once you get to a certain level, Hollywood seems to reward stars who fake the happy wholesome family values stuff (so they can get away with whatever). It’s a sad reflection on society but that’s the way it really is.

    I think it’s hard for actors to come out because if they do, they’ll be killed for it. It’s always the next generation who will benefit from it, not the pioneers.

  • Lisa

    yep and what Rob said about Rupert being a bit of an arse.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t NPH already have himym job before he came out? I admire him for doing it but wonder if it’s too soon to make the judgement that it won’t affect his career.

  • Pollas

    I don’t know. I’ve been able to accept Rupert Everett playing straight in movies even with knowing he is gay in real life. I still find NPH just as believable as a womanizer on his show as I did before he came out.

    I have to laugh at the idea of Hollywood being conservative, though. Maybe some of the older, silent generation, but for the most part, if you claim to be conservative or a Republican in Hollywood, you’re likely to be shunned by most in it and you’ll be lucky to get much work. Liberals rule and they don’t like to allow people who don’t believe the same things they do to play in the sandbox.

  • Knightgee


    I don’t know. NPH’s status as an out gay man certainly hasn’t hurt him career-wise. In recent years, he’s hosted a multitude of award shows, been a guest star on numerous television programs, done broadway, is still on a very successful sitcom where he is more or less the major star of it and seems to not at all be pressed for work. The question becomes “Is Neil Patrick Harris an anomaly in Hollywood or simply the first of a new generation of stars who can be openly gay and not have it affect their careers?”

  • i think Hollywood has it both ways… actors and creative types have a reputation for being “liberals” but the ones actually running the show — producers, executives, etc. — are businessmen (mostly it’s business *men*) and they tend to be very conservative. so it’s kind of like having a potemkin village to say Hollywood is “liberal”… the labels mean very little when it comes to hiring, firing and spreading money around.

  • misterb

    I have no opinion on Rupert Everett, but the second quote hit home for me. Hollywood is in the illusions business (look at how poorly all the Iraq reality films have done) And the illusions Hollywood promotes are very conservative. I watched “Taken” over the weekend and I couldn’t get over how much like “24” that was. The visible members of the Hollywood family may be personally liberal, but they don’t let that get in the way of making profoundly conservative movies.
    Can you think of one Hollywood movie where the gay couple lives happily ever after?

  • Dr Rocketscience

    I suspect it’s closer to the truth to say it’s as hard to be Gay in Hollywood as it is to be Black, or Asian, or Latino, or a Woman, at least as an individual actor. Gays currently have fewer exceptions to the rule.

    Meanwhile, I don’t think Neil Patrick Harris is a very strong exception. Sure, he plays a womanizer, but on a sitcom. I doubt audiences by and large find him convincing per se, but rather it works as farce. And not even this kind of farce. They don’t see his character as a womanizer played by Neil Patrick Harris, Gay Man. They see a womanizer played by Doogie Howser, M.D., a role Harris isn’t going to leave behind unless and until he outgrows that baby face of his.

  • Kathryn Dowd

    Hmm, define ‘star’.

    Is Ian McKellan a star? He has starred in major Hollywood blockbusters and ha been openly gay for years. It hasn’t hurt his career.

    Does a ‘star’ have to be working in movies, and in Hollywood? Otherwise I would add a number of actors from this side of the pond with successful careers – Sir Derek Jacobi, John Barrowman, Richard Wilson.

    But maybe what you mean isn’t ‘star’ so much as ‘heartthrob’. In that case, yes, very much more difficult to be a hearthrob if you are openly gay – although John Barrowman has plenty of female fans.

    The problem with Rupert Everett isn’t so much his sexuality as the fact that he’s not actually that good an actor and doesn’t pick the best projects. He’s rather better known for being Rupert Everett and Madonna’s best friend than for anything else…

  • ashok

    I think it depends on what you mean by star. I think Everett’s right in that if you want to be a really big bona fide star a la Bruce Willis/Tom Cruise/Tom Hanks et al, you cannot come out as gay. The really big money lies in the studio movies where you either play an action star or a romantic lead (to some extent, at least). And if the entire country (not just the two coasts) cannot buy you as one then its just not happening. The Neil Patrick Harris example doesn’t disprove that.

    On the other hand, it doesn’t seem to be entirely true that gay actors can’t get any decent work in Hollywood. Even though, to be honest, I cannot think of a whole lot of gay Hollywood actors.

  • bats :[

    I don’t think I’m a snob, but I make a distinction between being an actor and being a star (the latter teeters dangerously on the edge of being a celebrity). I’d much rather watch an actor do his/her thing than a star mug for the camera or sleepwalk through some piece of garbage that a major studio threw heaps of money at for the “privilege” of having the star appear in it.

    I side with Dr Rocketscience: there are times when I find myself saying, “I still can’t believe that’s Doogie Howser!” rather than “I still can’t believe that NPH is gay!”. In the same vein (mostly because both played the same character in Cabaret), Alan Cumming seems to have done well for himself as an actor and kept himself in Cheeze Doodles.

    As Ian McKellen has said about his being gay and whether it affects his talent: “…the job is called ‘acting’.”.

  • Joanne

    It’s interesting that apart from Neil Patrick Harris, everyone else mentioned on this comment thread so far who is an openly gay, successful actor is British (including Everett). I think that does back up what Everett says – they’re not succeeding in Hollywood, not really. They’ve all had very successful careers on British TV and stage, and McKellan’s managed to break out of that – but it was Gandalf that made him a star, and in so many ways LoTR wasn’t a Hollywood series. I think it’s a shame that we seem to be unable to distinguish the person and what they do off screen with what they do on screen. It shouldn’t matter, but evidently it does.

  • Christina

    Well, at the risk of sounding like a civilian here, I have a hard time believing a gay male actor in a romantic role, that’s for sure. Then again, I have a hard time believing Portia what’s-her-name as a standard romantic lead. She and Ellen seem to be living happily ever… well, happily so far, but you haven’t seen Portia anywhere other than Ellen’s show for a while now, have you?

    Just a thought. I’m hoping for a time when GAY romantic comedies/dramas are mainstream and we can see them being out in public and on screen.

  • Lisa

    hosting award shows / big on broadway – in England that sort of thing is done by either very camp men or gay men – isn’t part of the joke on himym that he is a gay man playing a womaniser? (i don’t watch it I just like the irony myself). Rupert himself says you can make it roll for a while and I think you get the initial hit off that publicity and people congratulating themselves for hiring a gay man and then that goes away when you fail. Hollywood has always struck me as a very homophobic town but I have no empirical proof for that feeling!

    The danger is that like Rupert Everett if you do come out, you are stuck with the gay best friend role.

    I understand the distinction between being an actor and being a star – the question related to being a star and I think that if you are, for example, Tom Cruise then you have had to sacrifice a lot for that. I don’t believe for a second that his relationship with Katie Holmes is for real but maybe that’s what he needs to succeed – that public persona of being the family guy cos it sells better. To be a big star with his kind of career, I think you have to be quite bland, pleasing and inoffensive.

    I agree with Dr Rocketscience that if you not white male and straight then you will have a harder time of it getting work.

    McKellan and Jacobi aren’t romantic love interests/ action stars. I do have a lot of time for Barrowman cos I think he can have his cake and eat it. Openly gay, women love him and he can play straight roles and is accepted in them. He’s a one man revolution!!!

  • Hdj

    The Gay thing seems to be working pretty well for Adam Lambert. People know hes gay but still there are girls that still think they could ungay him and marry him or something.If anything him being out of the closet has helped his career.

  • She and Ellen seem to be living happily ever… well, happily so far, but you haven’t seen Portia anywhere other than Ellen’s show for a while now, have you?

    She was on Arrested Development a few years ago, wasn’t she?

    And doesn’t the fact that Ellen still has a hit talk show years about her coming out supposedly destroyed her career say something about this topic?

    For the matter, I can’t help noticing that her ex-novia Anne Heche didn’t do too badly with her TV show Men in Trees despite having been one of the most famous bisexual actresses on the planet?

    And, come to think of it, convincingly playing one of the most sympathetic gay male characters on TV (Six Feet Under‘s David Fisher) hasn’t exactly destroyed Michael C. Hall’s career either. Nor did it keep him from being the star of his own series. Of course, it might have helped that he went on to marry his own female co-star but still…one would think that a truly homophobic society would consider a role like David Fisher to be the kiss of death to whatever unlucky actor who played it.

    But then maybe I’m indulging in way too much wishful thinking.

    After all, just because we Americans are not as officially homophobic as the people of Iran or Cuba doesn’t mean that we’ve reached the Promised Land.

    But we seem to be a lot closer than we used to be.

  • Portia’s a lead on Better Off Ted – Wednesdays on ABC.

  • LaSargenta

    What I’m reading here tells me that, yes, coming out as gay does hurt actors’ careers as it seems that many in the audience cannot separate a person’s private life from how they are on screen. An out straight actor can “play gay” or “play femme” (like, let’s say, Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie playing a straight man who disguises himself as a woman or Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain playing a great tragic part) and gets praised for it…evidence of what a great actor he is…however, the obverse is not true. An out gay actor plays straight and it seems that most just say “but s/he’s gaaaaAAaaay!”

    Someone mentioned Ian McKellen earlier…one of the great British actors of all time. I went and looked at his IMDB page…ooohh, DEEP research here! ;-> He went super public (people he worked with already must have known for decades) with his sexuality in 1988, and, although most of his roles both before and after were meaty, thespian ones, it is interesting to note that post-’88 the roles changed slightly. With the notable exception of Profumo, which was probably filmed before he came out, the roles after were definately not this-needs-to-be-a-straight-man roles. Before, when he was younger, too, he played John Keats and Hamlet, to name a couple of obvious ones, that people are accumstomed to thinking of as potentially hearthrob roles. He even played Chauvelin, a rival for Margueritte in The Scarlet Pimpernel. (Well, but his best role before was Walter in the painful Walter and June…)

    Then there was Profumo which was released shortly after he came out to the public — and he came out in order to be political — which was a bit of an advertisement: See, he can still play a really sleezy straight man!

    Afterwards, you can look for yourselves.

    I think he is an outlier. He has such incredible talent and is pretty much an institution that he probably could have said just about anything and kept working, but his roles are different. Is this due to things he has chosen (like Tales from the City)? Or is it due to “what the audience will bear”? We don’t know.

    Look at someone lower down the power ranking, though. Ok, Ellen DeGeneres is still working, but she seems to always be “being the lesbian actress”, not just an actor who can do just about anything.

    This isn’t exhaustive. I don’t actually see a lot of what gets discussed on this site, let alone out there in visual-moving-media-land. But, it seems to me that, yes, how someone is in one’s home limits (or not) what that actor can play.

  • Bluejay

    An out straight actor can “play gay” or “play femme” … and gets praised for it…evidence of what a great actor he is…however, the obverse is not true.

    That’s an interesting point. I’ve been thinking about this in connection with Dr. Rocketscience’s comment about the experience of Gay actors being similar to that of Blacks, Asians, etc in Hollywood. We seem to have varying degrees of tolerance as to who can play which identity. Blackface and yellowface are rightly condemned; but then, why aren’t we similarly outraged at “gayface”? If being Gay is as much a valid identity as Blackness, Asianness, etc, then shouldn’t it be accorded the same treatment? Should straight actors avoid playing gay characters the same way white actors should avoid playing black ones?

    I don’t actually believe this, I’m just trying to tease out an argument. I think actors should act and play whatever part they’re good at, independent of who they are in real life. But then again, I run into the blackface/yellowface thing and have to think again…

  • Lisa

    I think Anne Heche may find it hard to be taken seriously after the whole Celestia phrase plus she may be bi but she’s living the hetero lifestyle. I’ve always liked her stuff btw I think she’s great in Hung too.

    Ellen has a talk show that’s different that’s not acting she’s a version of herself on the show.

    Michael C Hall only played a gay guy on tv and then he did the usual usual and dumped his first wife for his co-star can you get more LA than that!

  • Lisa

    oops and Anne Heche is a very good actress, don’t forget

    what about disability – disabled people should be allowed to play disabled roles too.

    I think the blackface / yellow face thing is clearly racist as you state

    but what if you are a closet gay pretending to be straight and playing a gay man? not naming any names …

    what if you are 15% gay (would like to but eurgh – penis!)?

    gayness is hard to quantify didn’t some editor have a go at Lambert for not being gay enough? How do you define that? Can you be gay but not gay enough? How is Adam Lambert not gay enough? what are the rules???!?!?!?!?!?!?

  • LaSargenta

    If being Gay is as much a valid identity as Blackness, Asianness, etc, then shouldn’t it be accorded the same treatment? Should straight actors avoid playing gay characters the same way white actors should avoid playing black ones?
    I don’t actually believe this, I’m just trying to tease out an argument. I think actors should act and play whatever part they’re good at, independent of who they are in real life. But then again, I run into the blackface/yellowface thing and have to think again…

    Not the same thing.

    Is there a “gayface”? There is human behaviour, then there are gay acts and there is gay experience. Is there a “gayness” that someone who engages in homosexuality wears on her/his sleeve? In my experience, no. In the opinion of people who like to stereotype, yes.

  • LaSargenta

    Rereading that, I don’t like what I wrote. I really don’t have the vocabulary for this…I’m not gay and obviously do not have the experience of someone who is, although I am not what Kinsey, et al. would consider a normal straight woman (even though I chart way on the straight end of the Kinsey scale). I have a lot of conversations with people, but very little experience explaining what we talk about in more academic terms.

    In any case, I am bothered by the idea of “gayface” along the idea of “blackface”, but I don’t think what I wrote above improves matters any, and, in fact, I think it reads rather insulting in a way.

  • Jackie

    I find it strange that people talk about how difficult it is to have a gay actor playing a straight role, hand out plaudits for acting skills for straight actors playing a gay role, but nobody seems worried about nice, friendly actors playing psychopaths and murderers and wondering if they’ll feel the need to take their work home with them (so to speak). There’s certainly no notion of it being intrinsically insulting if somebody who would never in real life wish to kill anybody puts on “murderface” to play a killer.

    Whilst there are some actors who are only capable of playing variants of themselves, most good actors spend their lives portraying people far different from themselves in many ways. It’s what they do!

  • Christina

    I think a major point has been missed in this exchange – a big part of any male actor’s popularity is the appeal they have to women as fantasy lovers – that’s why they are (mostly) handsome, young, virile, etc. I have a hard time relating, on this level, to a man I know is gay, regardless of what part he’s playing, because there’s no way I can successfully insert myself into the female lead’s role and see myself in a relationship with him. Friends, fine, but not a “boyfrien.”

    It works differently with lesbian actresses, though, due to the (for me, completely inexplicable) fascination men have with the two-girls-and-a-guy fantasy scenario; they can still be attractive to straight men even when very out.

    And I second the Ellen comment above – she’s not an “actress” anymore, she’s just herself, being herself, on a talk show. Very different. As for Portia’s roles, sorry, I don’t watch any of those shows, didnt’ know she had lead/big roles like that. Of course she is a “lipstick lesbian,” and not really butch, which I think makes a big difference.

    As for the are they/aren’t they, check out the quiz on “The L Word”‘s site as to which of the women in the show are and aren’t gay in “real life.” It makes a difference… at least to some people. And remember also how much press there was about Will of Will & Grace NOT being gay… while Jack is. This works out well for them, since Jack is REALLY gay, but Will… he’s cute enough for women to be reassured that he’s still “available” in real life.

    I’m way past the point where I personally fantasize about male actors in roles, but there are hordes of women out there who are still into that kind of thing, and I think THAT’S where it matters – a lot – who is and isn’t gay in real life.

  • Bluejay

    …most good actors spend their lives portraying people far different from themselves in many ways. It’s what they do!

    I agree, Jackie, I’m just speculating about why we feel we need to draw the lines the way we do. Some portrayals of otherness are apparently okay, while others are not. The cultural consensus seems to be that whites can’t play blacks, but straights can play gays. What about disabled characters, as Lisa brought up? I liked Al Pacino’s blind character in “Scent of a Woman,” but should I have been offended that a seeing actor played blind? Apparently there’s some current controversy about a hearing actor playing a deaf role onstage, and the deaf actors’ community is up in arms.

    Anyway…yes, I think actors should be able to portray characters unlike themselves, but we seem to place limits on some characters but not others. I find it very confusing.

  • He might be completely right, but honestly, have you seen his face lately? He’s going all Jennifer Grey, and it’s bad. It’s really, really bad. I didn’t actually recognize him…

  • LaSargenta

    From Cristina: I think a major point has been missed in this exchange – a big part of any male actor’s popularity is the appeal they have to women as fantasy lovers – that’s why they are (mostly) handsome, young, virile, etc. I have a hard time relating, on this level, to a man I know is gay, regardless of what part he’s playing, because there’s no way I can successfully insert myself into the female lead’s role and see myself in a relationship with him. Friends, fine, but not a “boyfrien.”

    I think that what you’re describing is the actor versus celebrity/heartthrob/leadingman issue. When I go to a movie or the theater, I am looking for great performances. I don’t insert myself in there as a fantasy. I’m looking for craft and I’m looking to get involved in a story that hits me somewhere elemental. I think that there are a lot of posters on this thread who are looking at performances in a similar way.

    Now, for the celebrity attraction thing, yes, you’re right. People who are doing that also read up on the star’s (notice “star” instead of “actor” there) personal life. For them, it seems that there is a lot of trouble drawing a line. My mother was someone who couldn’t really separate a person from her or his role. That was how she liked to watch her movies while I am different. But, both “stars” and “actors” actually work in the same general field and compete for the same sources of income, even though the way they work is very different.

  • Paul

    I’m not a gay, but I play one on TV . . .

    But seriously, there might be a “gay face.” Back in Sioux City, IA, there used to be, and might still be for all I know, a Halloween street party. At this party, overweight, alcoholic ex-high school jocks often dressed up as sexist stereotypes, thus something I would call “gay face” and “woman face” because I would probably find them offensive if I was a gay man or a woman.

    I’ve also read about how some men in urban cities are adopting gay men’s fashions and mannerisms so straight women will like them better or relax around them.

    So if you define “gay face” as a straight person pretending to be gay for dishonorable purposes, no, I wouldn’t say there is much of that on TV or in movies, but I’ve seen it in real life.

  • GMJ

    Perhaps it’s not worth the hassle becoming an actor on the way of, hopefully, becoming a well-known star. The role of a so-called lead actor/actress can be a financial windfall for the performer. However, is it worth selling one’s soul to achieve that goal?

    Although I have very mixed feelings toward Rupert Everett, some of his points about actors staying in the closet are unfortunately valid. At the same time, what does that say about movie production executives and the movie-going public who would prefer to see lead performers put on false mask in public?

    Everytime this subject comes up, I think of the line from “The Wizard of Oz”:

    “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

  • Dr Rocketscience

    FYI, the LGBT community has, in fact and in so many words, condemned productions for putting actors in gayface. So, no, bluejay didn’t just coin the term. Sorry, dearie. ;-)

  • Lucy Gillam

    People keep bringing up Neil Patrick Harris, but it’s worth pointing out that most people did not know he was gay until he had been on How I Met Your Mother (not, btw, as the romantic lead, but as the over-the-top, comedic parody of a womanizer) for a season. And Broadway has long been more open than Hollywood.

    Name an openly gay actor or three who are playing action and romantic leads, headlining in mainstream blockbusters, and you might have a point, but pointing to one character actor, or even two or three, does not mean things are all sunshine and roses.

  • Knightgee

    ^I think its important to point out that the writers of the show have given Neil’s character a relationship with one of the other leading females on the show, so his homosexuality doesn’t seem to be much of an issue for them or viewers in terms of receiving that pairing as authentic.

  • Christina

    …yeah, but we all know he’s gay. That actually makes it MORE funny for me, because the idea of him in a “relationship” with a woman is absurd. In a way, he’s like Walowitz (or however he spells it) on BIG BANG – he thinks he’s this big womanizer, but he’s actually a fool and never gets anywhere. Part of the “joke” with NPH on YOUR MOTHER is that he’s a (real) gay man playing a womanizer. At least for me, it’s not possible to separate out the fact that he’s gay; while he’s kissing these woman, I always figure he’s fantasizing about… Rupert Everett.

  • if knowing that an actor is gay prevents him from being the object of a woman’s fantasies, then shouldn’t knowing a straight actor is married have the same dash of cold water effect on fantasies? isn’t it the *character* the actor portrays who you should have fantasies about? i’ve seen rupert everet play straight in A Woman of No Importance where he is romanced by minnie driver — had no problem accepting that.

    as for NPH… i suspect playing a straight character who is a caricature of a straight womanizer makes it a lot easier for the general public to accept his role.

    john barrowman probably played it smart by portraying an omni-sexual character who then narrows his choices down to one person, who just happens to be a man. i saw him play albert in La Cage aux Folles and he’s just sexy — gay, straight or whatever! and he’s a manly sort of man of Torchwood… lots of action and very capable and athletic. i think we need to stop seeing gay as meaning weak and helpless… that might go a long way to accepting actors of all types in different roles.

  • MacEachaidh

    Perhaps Rupert Everett’s comments should be taken with at least a grain of salt; I keep wondering whether he’s missed out on roles, or hasn’t had much of a career of late, not because he’s gay and out, but because he’s not really a very good actor.

    But I’ve no doubt there’s at least some truth to what he’s saying, that regardless of how the actor in question feels about his/her sexuality, or even the casting agents, directors or producers feel about it, the public is a fair way beyond this particular cresting wave, and it’s their beliefs and expectations that will ultimately be catered for in the *business* of movies and television.

    I think movies like “Brokeback Mountain” (for instance) would have had a very different reception among the general public if one of the two lead actors had been publicly out as gay – the general public seems willing to accept gay characters as makeover experts or ditzy himbos who are ever the butt of the jokes, but don’t shove actual sweaty grunty gay sex down their throats (!!) by asking them to contemplate its real-life aspects in the shape of someone who actually indulges in that *for real*. The measure for that, I think, was given not so long ago by the movie “Troy”, when the story was changed so that Achilles’ male lover Patroclus suddenly became his chaste cousin, and – as if to ram the point home – our first encounter of Achilles in the flick was of him exhausted in bed, after an all-night sex session with not one but two willing maidens he’s just deflowered. Randy bugger. Director Wolfgang Petersen, when challenged over this change to the characters, was quoted as saying that they – he, the producers, and the studio – felt strongly that their target audience would never accept Achilles as the strong-willed, uber-masculine antagonist if he had also been depicted as gay. And that Brad Pitt wouldn’t have agreed to take the role.

    So I don’t think it’s about gay characters having to be played by gay actors (many of whom won’t play gay anyway, because they fear any possible stigma), but because the general public still only accepts real-life gayness within very narrow parameters. As for NPH’s apparent asbestosity, I think you have to look to HIMYM’s target audience: urbanised, wry, and literate in pop culture references. They’re gonna be fine with his being gay, but they’re also a long way from the teenagers and 20-somethings in the mall cineplexes that movie studio Suits have to cater to.

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