Matt Smith defends role as gay photographer Robert Mapplethorpe
Matt Smith has defended his decision to play a gay character in a biopic of Robert Mapplethorpe.
The former Doctor Who star is taking on the role of Mapplethorpe, who was renowned for his photography on BDSM gay sub-culture in the the late 1960s and early 1970s in New York City.
Mapplethorpe’s photography sparked a national debate over the public funding of homoerotic artwork.
Smith, who is currently dating Cinderella star Lily James, spoke out about his decision to take the role for biopic Mapplethorpe, at a time where the casting of straight people in LGBT+ roles has come under scrutiny.
Matt Smith: Sexuality has ‘no bearing’ on whether you should play gay roles
According to Vulture, he said: “I think your sexual orientation, or your sex and your choices outside of work, shouldn’t influence — in either way, positive or negative — what happens.
“So, to me, it doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight. That has no bearing on whether you should get the part.”
The actor added: “Where does it stop?
“Like, do we then say, do we apply that logic to going, ‘Okay, I’ve got a part, and it’s playing a brother, and he’s addicted to heroin.’
“Do we then go to people that have only taken heroin?”
However, the actor added of the discussion over gay roles: “It’s good that it’s being had.”
Matt Smith: Playing Robert Mapplethorpe made me reflect on the AIDS crisis
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Matt Smith said looking at Mapplethorpe’s life made him think about what it would be like to be gay in the 1970s in America.
“Just investigating that moment in time, it certainly made me reflect on being a homosexual in the ’70s in New York and the way they were treated for a disease that was completely misunderstood,” he told the publication.
“You think with what we know now about HIV and AIDS, you think if only we could have imparted a bit of the medicinal knowledge and the cultural understanding of that thing.
“It was appalling really what happened to gay men then, and the way they were treated, and what they had to go through.
“It’s amazing how far we’ve come in being able to treat that particular disease. It absolutely made me think about that.
“He died so young and if he were around now, then he’d live out the whole of his life and still be a brilliant, prolific artist I’m sure.
“Because he was prolific. He just worked and worked and worked.”