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Lord of the Rings star Viggo Mortensen gives bizarre defence of straight actors playing gay roles ahead of new queer film

Patrick Kelleher November 10, 2020
Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen (Mike Coppola/Getty)

Viggo Mortensen has defended straight actors playing gay roles following the debut of his new film Falling, where he plays a queer man.

The question of whether straight actors should play gay characters comes up time and time again, with the debate seemingly unlikely to end anytime soon.

And Mortensen, a straight man, has made his views on it crystal clear.

The Lord of the Rings actor makes his directorial debut with Falling, which he also wrote. It sees him playing a gay man called John who finds himself caring for his racist and homophobic father Willis, played by Lance Henriksen, after he starts showing symptoms of dementia.

I apologise to all the proctologists for casting David Cronenberg.

When asked about the debate around straight actors playing gay characters, Mortensen told Reuters: “I apologise to all the proctologists for casting David Cronenberg,” referring to the actor’s role in his film as a colorectal surgeon.

Representation of white gay men is constantly improving in major studio films, monitoring group GLAAD reported this year, although representation of other queer people is dismal. Trans and non-binary characters were found to be non-existent in major studio releases from 2019.

Often, queer characters who are shown in film are played by straight actors, a practice which divides the community.

Some are supportive of actors being able to play any role they choose, however others believe that this takes away precious work from LGBT+ actors who are often overlooked for straight roles.

Viggo Mortensen says gay character is no gimmick.

Viggo Mortensen said he was joking about proctologists, but wanted to make the point that it is an actor’s job to play parts outside of their own experiences.

“There are certain characters I’m not going to play,” he continued. “I wouldn’t play Eric, the Chinese-Hawaiian American,” he said, referring to his character’s husband in the film.

The star insisted that he did not make his main character gay as a “gimmick, anchor or some trigger”, and said the decision flowed naturally during the writing of the film.

Mortensen revealed that he decided to make John gay while writing a scene set in an airport where he receives a phone call from his partner.

“I thought, what if it’s not a wife? What if it’s a husband? I’ll try that. I’ll write the next scene and see how it feels. If it doesn’t work or feels somehow not right for the story, then I won’t use it, but I liked it,” he said.

The actor spoke about the “injustice” minority groups have endured, including LGBT+ people, adding: “Sadly, the issues that are dealt with in terms of intolerance and communication problems in the family are issues that are absolutely going to resonate in terms of US society and other societies for years to come.”

 

More: Falling, Viggo Mortensen

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