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Colin Firth says there are ‘invisible boundaries’ for gay actors

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  1. The Grinch 2 Feb 2010, 1:36pm

    Don’t worry gays! You can always get a job with the BBC as a light entertainment presenter or chat show host provided you camp it up and act like the love child of Larry Grayson and John Inman….now shut that door!

  2. Simon Murphy 2 Feb 2010, 1:48pm

    The biggest and not so invisible barrier facing gay actors is their own greed and cowardice.

    Ian McKellen; Alan Cumming; Jodie Foster and even Rupert Everett all enjoy successful careers even though they are out.

    All it would take is for 1 closet case (John Travolta; Queen Latifah – I’m looking at you 2 in particular) to come out and see what happens.

    It is not Hollywood’s fault that no major movie star (with the possible exception of Jodie Foster) has the courage to be open.

    If a film has a gay role then I fail to see why a gay actor would be afraid to audition for it. And I fail to see why a director would not be much happier with a gay actor in the role.

    No-one deserves to be a major movie star. That is usually about luck and chance. While closet case actors continue to take the cowardly option and blame homophobia or Hollywood for their own cowardice then nothing is going to change.

  3. Most sucessful gay actors haven’t come out until they have had relative sucesses. So *starting out* in the industry as a open gay man or lesbian and making it to top-level stardom is damn near impossible.

  4. @ Simon Murphy: I think the problem really lies in the curious attitude, the double standard, that prevails in Hollywood today and which Firth remarks on. The issue is whether a young actor hoping for lead roles will get them if it’s known he’s gay – so far it’s not happened because no studio will take the risk of funding such an actor, given American attitudes. (That’s why, despite rumours that can never be confirmed, there are so very few movie stars who are anything other than straight, in a field otherwise scarcely underrepresented by gay men.)

    You must remember McKellen didn’t come out till he was in his 40s, and Everett’s career could hardly be called successful. Alan Cumming seems to do OK, but then he doesn’t restrict himself to movies or to Hollywood.

    You’re right, it’ll take one major star coming out to start shifting attitudes; but that’s not going to happen for a while, because (I’m told) no major stars are gay.

  5. Simon Murphy 2 Feb 2010, 2:50pm

    Edited by moderator

    John Travolta is (rumoured to be) gay
    Queen Latifah is (rumoured to be) gay
    Mike Myers is (rumoured to be) gay
    Tom Cruise is (rumoured to be) gay
    Jodie Foster is gay
    Ian McKellen is gay
    Rupert Everett is gay
    Alan Cumming is gay

    The idea that gay actors have to stay in the closet is a convenient myth used as an excuse.

    I don’t buy it.

    Rupert Everett’s career was not ruined by being gay but by the APPALLING career choices he made after his breakthrough in ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’

  6. Nice list :D And just a start ;) But don’t underestimate the fear in Hollywood – nor the influence of ‘family groups’ and religion. Yes, it’s cowardly not to come out, but even if a moderate star did, there’d be no great stampede of people following him/her, and any future jobs would just go to those who stayed in the closet. Who’s going to dare to be first?

  7. But Simon, do you really think Everett was really in a position where he was presented with good choices? And if not, why not?

    The whole point is the first 4 on your list are rumoured to be gay – yet even in this era of celebrity tell-alls there’s no-one who can come up with proof, is there? Moreover, Travolta, Myers and Cruise are or were married, which surely undermines the point you want to make?

    The stumbling block is that once an actor is known to be gay, it’s assumed (bizarrely) by audiences as much as producers that he’ll never again be able to play a straight role convincingly – and certainly not a romantic lead. It’s hopelessly unfair that it doesn’t work the other way (everyone thought it was so ‘brave’ of Ledger and Gyllenhaal to take on [conflicted] gay roles), but I’m not optimistic that that attitude will change rapidly.

  8. Simon Murphy 2 Feb 2010, 4:46pm

    Rupert Everett for all his whining and bellyaching has continued to act consistently since My Best Friend’s Wedding:

    The Next Best Things (appalling rubbish – and seeing as it co-starred Madonna, Everett should have known that); Inspector Gadget; The Importance of Being Earnest; Unconditional Love; Shrek 2; Shrek 3; St Trinians 1; St Trinians 2.

    Granted he did not become a massive star; but his success would the envy of the majority of actors who cannot make a living at acting.

    Indeed the 1st 4 on my list are ‘rumoured’ to be gay. But I have a sneaking suspicion that there’s no ‘rumour’ about 2 of the names on that list.

    The fact that some have married is not to be taken seriously – I mean Rock Hudson had a wife. It was a publicity stunt.

    Those names ‘rumoured’ to be gay are big enough and famous enough that they could continue their career if they felt like it.

    They choose not to. That their personal choice. Big, bad Hollywood is not forcing them to stay closetted. They choose to.

    That’s their choice but it’s simply not true to suggest that their lives and careers will be ruined by being out. That’s a lazy, convenient excuse.

  9. Simon Murphy 2 Feb 2010, 4:56pm

    Of course the ‘explanation’ given for this kiss is that in Italian culture men kiss each other on the lips.

    I’m SOOOOO glad. John Travolta has always struck me as FIERCELY heterosexual.

    Those National Enquirer exposes were all LIES!

  10. Yes but the fact is, if they were ‘rumoured’ to be gay and weren’t married, they’d get no work – so it really underlines the fact that no-one’s brave enough to take that first step, perhaps because they don’t want to condemn themselves to a lifetime of being voiceover or character actors or, like Everett, drag roles (breaking through stereotypes with a vengeance, isn’t it?).

    Why else would Everett himself recommend that young actors stay in the closet? It doesn’t suggest satisfaction with his decision.

  11. Brian Burton 2 Feb 2010, 5:10pm

    It’s all a load of Cock-A-Lorum Boys and Girls. Hollywood knew damn well who was gay and who was streight in the past and are even more sofisticated today that they were then. Every one in Hollywood knew Rock Hudson was Gay but he still had a fantastic Movie career. All this talk in the 21st Centuary of Gay Movie Stars is Crap….Ask John Bannerman?

    I watched Kevin Kline in D’lovely the other day (A Cole Porter Biopic) John Bannerman and Kline sing a duet then go and make love afterwards….Will Young sang in the Movie too.

  12. As I’ve said before it has not done John Barrowman any harm (love him or hate him)

  13. Simon Murphy 2 Feb 2010, 5:24pm

    “Yes but the fact is, if they were ‘rumoured’ to be gay and weren’t married, they’d get no work ”

    Vin Diesel is not married and is ‘rumoured’ to be gay.

    He has a mega-successful action career (even though he couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag)

  14. Niko West 2 Feb 2010, 5:40pm

    Hollywood studios, financiers and to a certain degree agents, control the idea of a ‘market’ for a film. Many investors are traditional ‘family values’ republicans or Americans with less secular ideas about society. Thus, an actor coming out and being true to themselves in LA doesn’t necessarily win a) admiration or b) success. There are many happy gay actors out there but most make their mark first and foremost away from the machinations of the industry in independent ground breaking films before moving into mainstream. There are very powerful conservative influences out there even amongst so called ‘liberal’ film makers and producers.

    Finally, in order to make ‘gay’ acceptable, a few established gay actors will have to kamikaze in order to clear the way for others. Whilst it requires courage to do so, not many are prepared to hear the kvetching from those who have fallen on the sword constructed of one’s own principles. Sick eh?

  15. Simon Murphy 2 Feb 2010, 6:15pm

    Well unfortunately all established Hollywood actors are straight.

    If only there was an actor of the stature of Kevin Spacey willing to stand up and being counted as gay. Someone as BLATANTLY straight as Kevin Spacey has never felt the need to marry or have a girlfriend. So secure is he in his own heterosexual orientation that he felt completely at ease in taking his ‘dog for a walk’ in a gay cruising ground at 3am. Such a pity he called the police after his phone was robbed.

  16. @ Brian Burton: I think today a secret such as Rock Hudson’s, marriage and all, couldn’t be kept within Hollywood alone. And he was hardly ‘out’, which I think undermines Simon’s point.

    @ Mike (12): true, but John Barrowman can hardly be considered a major Hollywood star.

    @ Simon (13): good example, but I believe he has a child by a girlfriend so as far as Middle America is concerned I should think there’s no reason to believe he’s anything unconventional. The sort of people who can’t conceive of the idea of a gay man playing a straight lead role are likely to be confused to the point of meltdown by bisexuality.

    Simon Woods is the one to look out for, in the UK anyway – being known to be gay doesn’t seem to have restricted his roles so far, but then TV’s perhaps a different matter these days.

  17. Jean-Paul Bentham 2 Feb 2010, 7:00pm

    ‘Firth…”sexual taboos” in Hollywood were constraining gay actors.’

    Ain’t that the truth.

    Hollywood has never recovered from the Code, and likely never will.

    If you’ll bear with me, here is a relevant quote from Vito Russo’s “The Celluloid Closet’:

    “In the late 1920’s Will Hays, a former postmaster general of the United States and a Hoosier Presbyterian elder, had been drafted to head the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, an organization formed mainly to provide favorable public relations for the studios and to protect the industry from the threat of outside censorship.

    The latter goal was achieved in 1930 with the creation of the Motion Picture Production CODE, by which the Industry regulated itself.

    The Code survived under different names until the late Sixties, often taking the name of its current administrator.

    Thus, at various times it was called the Johnston Office, the Hays Office and the Breen Office.

    When, under tremendous pressure from the Catholic Church and other civic and religious groups, the Code was strengthened in 1934, borderline gay characters fell into well-worn innuendo and reliable sissy credentials, but said the same things.”

    Hollywood doesn’t deserve gay talent, if you ask me.

    Independent film studios are now capable of producing top-notch films with gay actors reflecting our gay concerns and identities.

    Although I can understand and strongly sympathize with Simon Murhy’s militant attitude, I am more inclined to approach Hollywood with Rehan’s, shall we say, finesse and respect for the human factors which surface in the process of ‘coming out’.

    Also, I love Colin Firth for bringing up this issue and being so modest about it.

  18. This isn’t just a Hollywood, or even a BBC thing. Consider “Queer as Folk”, (the original British Channel 4 series, not that Yank trash) – It was written and produced by Russell T. Davies, an openly out gay big-gun in the industry who has employed virtually every fag in the industry at some time or another in Dr Who or Torchwood.

    So why were the three lead characters in a blatantly open story of gay life played by STRAIGHT actors?

    I rest my case m’lud.

  19. Rehan: “Everett’s career could hardly be called successful.”

    I think that’s grossly unfair. Kenny Everett had a massive following. Thron shields to maximum! :)

  20. @ JPB (17) Too kind. And I agree with you wholeheartedly, good for Colin Firth for saying what he did. It’s particularly admirable in that his remarks were disinterested.

    @ RobN (19) Ho, ho – but Everett (K) wasn’t a movie star, was he?

    You’re absolutely right about Queer as Folk though (or even the actors who played Warren and Ferdy in This Life – anyone else remember it?). What would be interesting to know is if any gay actors auditioned for the roles and, if so, on what basis they were turned down. Maybe they just weren’t good enough – it’s possible; but it’s also possible that, bizarrely in this instance, they were marginalised as they have been in so much else (not perhaps in theatre, but in films and until recently on TV – though TV is moving on, not just with Barrowman and Woods but also actors like Ben Daniels in Cutting It).

  21. Rehan: Yes he was!! He was in that cinematographic masterpiece “Bloodbath at the House of Death” in 1984. Who cannot possibly for forget that one?

  22. Wasn’t one of the actors who was in Queer As Folk USA gay? One of the main characters, that is.

    It IS weird that gay men are so often played by straight men though. Same goes for women, I think.

  23. Should gay roles always be played by gay men and women? Should gay men not have straight roles? Surely there aren’t enough gay roles to keep all the gay actors working, not even if Torchwood goes to the Fox network! Every role ought to be cast on merit. It shouldn’t matter whether the actor is gay or straight.

    By the way, the lovely Mr Barrowman is due to play a presumably straight sexual predator in Desperate Housewives next month. I wonder what that does to the debate? I think I’ll go and watch Shark Attack Three for the morning.

  24. No Rose, I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that, it’s just that it does seem bizarre that now an actor known to be gay gets neither straight nor gay characters, in the Hollywood context anyway.

    Start wondering why there aren’t prominent youngish actors who’re known to be gay and we’re right back to square one of this circular conundrum!

  25. Couch Potato 3 Feb 2010, 12:25pm

    The bigger question is – how many mainstream films are there with central gay roles?

  26. Gay activist Paul Mitchell 3 Feb 2010, 1:16pm

    I can not believe that this is even an issue in 2010 – Hollywood needs to move into the second decade of the 21st century!!!!!!

  27. Brian Burton 3 Feb 2010, 3:11pm

    Rehan…Mr Knowall! Rock Hudson was out, It’s just that no one wanted to belive it.

    It’s funny how these new commers like to hi-jack the discussion threads and the fizzel out!

  28. Simon Murphy, a hoot! Your posts are a pleasure to read.

  29. I would also like to point out that the only reason gay men do not get movie roles is also because most gay men who start drama in high school/college/university are CAMP!! Who’d want to see a camp queen try and act a very manly lead role?

  30. Rehan…Mr Knowall! Rock Hudson was out, It’s just that no one wanted to belive it. It’s funny how these new commers like to hi-jack the discussion threads and the fizzel out!

    Brian Burton … Mr Wouldbeknowall!!! Hijacking a discussion yet again? Typical!

    I look forward seeing to your proof (unpublished rumours don’t count) that Hudson was out during his working career. To the best of my limited knowledge, he never once made any statement regarding his sexuality. Does that count as ‘out’ in your book?

  31. Rehan: There was no such thing as “out” in those days as if you came out, they would you back in, behind bars.

    That said, there were many that were ‘open secrets’ and common knowledge. Roddy McDowall was well known as the the Hollywood gossip queen with the mostest, and carried all his secrets in a diary, leaving it in his will, only to be read when everyone mentioned in it was dead. I just hope I’ll still be around to catch those titbits!

  32. Jean-Paul Bentham 4 Feb 2010, 3:38am

    It’s true; Simon Murphy’s posts are aggressive and inspirational. Seriously like him.

  33. Rehan, if Hollywood is such a problem, then the answer for British actors at least, is stuff Hollywood, get back here and make an effort to build a British film industry again.

    Darren, post 24. That’s nonsense.

  34. Jean-Paul Bentham 4 Feb 2010, 12:47pm

    Rose meant “Darren, post 29”. Hi Rose!

  35. Simon Murphy 4 Feb 2010, 2:08pm

    “Who’d want to see a camp queen try and act a very manly lead role? ”

    Let’s ask Tom Cruise shall we.

    I mean even his name is a sex activity of the lavender kind

  36. @ RobN (31): I know – that’s why I think it’s pointless talking about the past, when people’s experiences – for a wide variety of reasons – was not comparable with the present day: it rather obviously wasn’t possible for someone to be a movie star and out.

    What is interesting (or so I think) is the degree to which it’s possible, or not, today.

  37. Eurgh – that should have read ‘were not comparable’.

  38. Jean-Paul Bentham 5 Feb 2010, 4:29am

    What is art without barriers if not a reflection of life itself?
    Just curious.

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