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?

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