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Friday, 12 March 2010

Straight and gay in Tinseltown

There’s an interesting article in the Independent today about gay actors, straight actors and actors who play gay characters.

They seem to make a bigger thing about it in Hollywood than over here in the UK, it seems. Here, we’ve seen, for instance, Russell Tovey in the highly successful TV series Being Human playing George, heterosexual and in love with a woman. But Tovey the actor is gay.

This kind of thing doesn’t play well in America. In the Indie article, British actor Colin Firth talks about how he’s unwittingly complicit in all of this.

“There might be risks for a gay actor coming out [in Hollywood],” he said. “The politics of that are quite complex, it seems to me. If you’re known as a straight guy, playing a gay role, you get rewarded for that. If you’re a gay man and you want to play a straight role, you don’t get cast – and if a gay man wants to play a gay role now, you don’t get cast. I think it needs to be addressed and I feel complicit in the problem. I don’t mean to be. I think we should all be allowed to play whoever – but I think there are still some invisible boundaries which are still uncrossable.”

Glenn Ficarra, the co-writer/director of I Love You Phillip Morris, starring Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey, said, “People have asked us, ‘Why didn’t you hire gay actors to play these roles?’ Well, there are no gay actors in Hollywood! None of them are out of the closet. With the exception of Ian McKellen, who is too old for the part, it’s exceedingly rare to see that. And it sucks because they’re actors. If a straight guy can play gay, why can’t a gay guy play straight? It’s just as convincing. But there’s this perception in marketing, somehow the public can’t overcome this idea of, ‘There’s a gay guy kissing that straight woman – my God!’ I don’t understand that.”

So what’s the difference between British audiences and American? Why can Russell Tovey, a gay man, play a straight man (well, werewolf) and be seen kissing a woman passionately and not ruffle feathers over here?

I for one find no problem with that, any more than I find a problem with a straight actor playing a gay guy. And that’s the way it should be. Acting is a job. You do your job well, you get the plaudits (and the money), and it shouldn’t matter whether you’re gay or straight.

I wouldn’t wish to see some sort of positive discrimination whereby only gays are chosen to play gay and straights to play straight.


Anonymous said...

I agree. I think acting should be just that-acting. Gay or straight doesn't really matter, but just FYI Colin Firth isn't gay. He is married, three kids.

Anonymous said...

Please do remember that you in Britain did two things that set your society up for a little more harmony back in the the 15th to 18th centuries. Now not necessarily in order:

First there was the expulsion of the Roman Catholic see from the government in Britain and the formation of the official religion of the Church of England.

Then there was the smart move of packing your religious misfits on boats and sending them here to what became the United States.

Therein lay the issue. You guys supress your religious bigots. We unfortunately to some degree, have the 1st amendment. So we have to ridicule them instead.


Andy Armitage said...

Thanks, Anon. You're right. I was thinking of another actor when I wrote that. Corrected now.