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Harry Potter star Jason Isaacs: ‘Saying a gay actor can’t play a straight character is absurd’

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  1. Well, of course it’s absurd. But the tragic thing is how many people – even young and otherwise fairly intelligent people – continue to hold this bizarre view that, once you know an actor is gay, you can’t imagine him playing a non-gay role. It’s as silly as saying a Jew can’t play a non-Jewish role, or vice versa.

    But ask around – you’d be surprised by how many people (mainly women in my experience, but maybe that’s only because I work with more women than men) come up this nonsense, which is all to do with perception and nothing to do with acting.

    1. I am a woman and I think it is silly to say that gay guys can’t play straight characters, and vice versa.

      What about Colin Firth playing a gay character? And what about Rock Hudson?

      1. (I hope you do realise I didn’t mean all or only women above!)

        The bizarre thing is that it really doesn’t work the other way round – gay roles in Hollywood are mainly given to ostentatiously heterosexual actors, who are then praised to the skies for taking on such a “difficult” role. The double standard is really appalling. (TV is much more advanced in that respect, and theatre in a different league altogether.)

        Rock Hudson doesn’t really count, because as long as he was acting all his fans assumed he was heterosexual.

        1. Well Rock does count because nobody realised he was gay! He proved the fact that a gay male actor was just as capable of playing a straight role as anyone.

          1. Oh, I don’t think anyone is really claiming a gay actor can’t act non-gay role (well, some idiots might, but there’s no point giving them any attention). The issue, bizarre though it seems, is whether people find are able to find it convincing if they already know he’s gay.

            And I bet you many of these people will now look at old films with Rock Hudson and say “Yeah, you can see he was gay all along”, when they’d never have said that if they weren’t told he was. Hindsight is always 20/20.

          2. de Villiers 23 Aug 2013, 8:24pm

            I suppose the perception is that whilst straight people want to see a straight actor act ‘gay’, they do not want someone to act the heterosexual element of the character. Whether that is wrong or not, I do not know – but if film directors/producers consider that this is the perception of an audience, it could affect an actor’s career roles.

  2. A comprehensive study there. Out of 101 films, few gay, lesbian or bi characters

  3. well apparently only 13% of the film roles are gives to gays, there may be the reason we haven’t seen him lately?

  4. The reason people feel this way is because they want to emotionally connect with a character and the actor/ess who plays the role is tied up with the emotional content of it all. IE women want to feel attracted to a man who is playing a romantic role and feel they could have a chance, if they know the actor is gay they cannot become emotionally connected to the character.

    Straight men view gay men as more feminine than them so in their eyes it would just not be believable for a gay man to play a macho character.

    It happens for other things as well, Discuss a film with a group and you will almost always hear something along the lines of, They should have cast X in that role, it would have been better, or it was a good film except for so and so, I just didn’t believe them.

    Sadly, the role and the actor have to match for us to connect with them, if we don’t connect then the whole experience is ruined.

    Maybe one day we can focus on the acting skill, but until then!!!

    1. Robert in S. Kensington 23 Aug 2013, 2:10pm

      I agree. I remember a female friend many years ago once asked me about my relationship with my boyfriend at the time. She asked…”who plays the woman”. It really annoyed me and I found it offensive but surprised she’d say such a thing. She apologised but that’s still a pervasive view some hetero men and women have of us.

      Then there was a female hair stylist I used to go to for a hair cut and she’d sometimes say…”what a waste” when she found out a good looking man was gay. She even said it about my boyfriend at the time and I stopped doing business with her. I’m sure this sort of attitude isn’t uncommon today.

      I think Hollywood film producers are afraid to cast an openly gay actor in a lead role because of what they perceive would be a low turnout in revenues at the box office which is their bread and butter. I wouldn’t say the majority of the those same producers are necessarily homophobic though.

      1. Absolutely Robert. the Producers are not homophobic, but when there are tens of millions of pounds at stake, they won’t take the risk.

        I’ve heard the “what a waste” comment from women, and all the best looking men are gay or taken, they actually see it as a compliment. One guy I dated had women in his office refer to him as the Harrods Window. nice to look at but can never own.

        1. Robert in S. Kensington 23 Aug 2013, 4:33pm

          Perhaps it is a compliment, David, but the way in which I was on the receiving end of it didn’t appear that way but I’m sure some don’t mean anything bad by saying it. I still don’t like hearing it after all these years. I think the “Harrods Window” comment is a nice way of putting it though if they have to say anything about a gay man they know they can never have, a lot better than the experiences I encountered a while back.

        2. I don’t like it when women say that as it’s kind of mean. One freakin guy is gay and they act like they’re seriously deprived, yet I fall in love and crush on loads of straight guys that they can actually get with because they’re straight and have no qualms flaunting them in front of me like a prize at a fair

    2. The double standard is still ridiculous though, isn’t it? I mean, no-one (in their right mind, anyway) finds a horror film disappointing because the actor isn’t an actual murderer or a war film a let-down because a war-hero role is played by a pacifist.

    3. Maybe we need the gay and bisexual actresses to forge ahead in this particular area, then, until the whole thing is more accepted. Straight men are usually quite happy to lech over lesbians, after all.

  5. The clue is in the word “acting”. I’ll bet most of those people laying doctors on TV aren’t really doctors either.

  6. Robert in S. Kensington 23 Aug 2013, 1:55pm

    He’s absolutely right! Love the man and his acting, handsome too!

  7. And what about the fact that, at least in mainstream movies, I’d guess upwards of 90% of gay characters are played by straight actors?
    I just don’t get it, why can’t it work the other way round? It’d be exactly the same thing…

  8. Jason Isaac is saying what we have know for a long time. The obvious fact he mentioned that many actors don’t come out would also allude to the fact that perhaps some don’t because they are already playing leads. A different time and era, but Rock Hudson did it for years.

    How ever I don’t say this to contradict the issue, I find it an interesting view, that when we are confronted by people who’s argument is we can change! we vehemently argue being gay isn’t a choice “get over it” so is it really that unreasonable for some people to perceive the same about an actor?

    I don’t debate the issue over can/can/t, an actor who knows hi craft plays “ALL” roles, but maybe our own adamant argument about sexuality not being a choice is the underlying reason many gay actors don’t get roles because they can’t bring an emotional component required to the part. Perhaps some see the argument as sexuality not being a choice as a double standard when casting?

    I only question as a possibility

    1. But why then do all the plum gay roles – Brokeback Mountain being the most obvious example – almost always go to non-gay actors?

  9. The funniest and most ridiculous thing I ever heard was when John Barrowman spoke about the time he went to go for the role of Will in Will & Grace and he never got it because they said he was too straight!!! That just showed how stupid the whole thing is.

    And I wonder if the same happens with gay actresses? Do they get turned down for straight roles the same as their gay male counterparts

  10. Damn it. He’s sexy AND intelligent. Now if only the man was at least bisexual.

    1. How many beers does it take to turn a straight guy into a bisexual – never been more than three in my experience ;)

  11. Given the so called ‘lifestyle’ in Hollywood and the abundance of mood enhancing substances flooding the place I can’t imagine many so called ‘straight’ actors will die curious.

  12. Thank god am a lesbian after reading these reply’s :P ! I don’t care what the guy is bonking just as long as he is best guy for the job…………….

    Hope its not the same for gay women also. Pay me a few quid and am sure I could act straight if need be, although am completely ugly this would never happen :'(

  13. Most gay people have plenty of experience of playing straight characters…

  14. What about Neil Patrick Harris in How I met your mother? He’s openly gay and the majority of roles he plays are straight characters! He made a convincing Barney Stinson didn’t he?

  15. Celtic Pants 27 Aug 2013, 7:06am

    He’s right I think. I really like this chap! He has the most sexy feet of any man on TV!

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