Film

Ben Whishaw sometimes ‘doesn’t believe’ straight actors playing gay roles

Josh Milton January 29, 2022
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Ben Whishaw attends the No Time To Die premiere. (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

Ben Whishaw has said that sometimes he simply “does not believe” straight actors who play LGBT+ roles.

The soft-spoken British actor, best known for Paddington and as Q in the James Bond film series, is the latest to wade into the long-rumbling debate over LGBT+ roles being taken by straight, cis actors.

As much as some non-queer actors have done spectacular jobs at conveying the pain and joy from being LGBT+, others definitely didn’t come at all close. In the latter, often relying on tired, harmful stereotypes.

And in an interview with newspaper The Guardian, the Emmy-winning gay actor shared his thoughts on Eddie Redmayne’s controversial lead role in The Danish Girl.

“I think Eddie did a beautiful job and it’s done,” he said of the 2015 film about trans trailblazer Lili Elbe, which he starred in as one of her lovers.

“Going forward, there will be other films in which the role is given to someone who lived that experience.

“Why shouldn’t a role like that be given to someone who knows, inside, what the character is? I’m all for that.

“I feel the same, sometimes, about straight actors playing gay parts. I’m critical if I don’t think the performance is, from my subjective experience, accurate.

“I might think: ‘I don’t believe you!’ And even a small moment of hesitation or inauthenticity will block my engagement with the whole story. So I understand these questions.”

LGBT+ storytelling needs to come from an authentic and committed place, the 41-year-old said.

As much as conversations tend to be “black-and-white” and “polarised,” he said that people have to accept that there will always be “different points of view”.

Ben Whishaw feels Q’s coming out scene was ‘unsatisfying’ in James Bond

In No Time to Die, Ben Whishaw admitted he thinks “some things were not great” about the decision for the spy franchise to acknowledge Q’s sexuality.

The 2021 film saw Bond (Daniel Craig) and Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) ask for Q’s help. But the gadget maker is flustered when the pair burst into his home – “he will be here in 20 minutes,” he says of his date.

“I’m very happy to admit maybe some things were not great about that [creative] decision,” he said of the much-hyped example of LGBT+ representation on the silver screen that amounted to an easily edited out pronoun.

Ben Whishaw as MI6 official Q in Skyfall. (Sony)

Whishaw stressed that the studio, he feels, was not strong-armed into the decision to reveal Q is queer. “I suppose I don’t feel it was forced upon the studio,” he said. “That was not my impression of how this came about.

“I think it came from a good place.”

He raised his initial concerns with the scene to producer Barbara Broccoli, saying: “Are we doing this, and then nothing with it?”

“I remember,” he added, “perhaps, feeling that was unsatisfying.”

But he added that, “for whatever reason, I didn’t pick it apart with anybody on the film”.

“Maybe on another kind of project, I would have done. But it’s a very big machine. I thought a lot about whether I should question it.

“Finally, I didn’t. I accepted this was what was written. And I said lines. And it is what it is.”

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