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arts

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

     
Film Actors: Gay Male  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  

Contemporary Debate: To Come Out or Not to Come Out

The British actor Rupert Everett came out publicly in 1989. Rather than ruining his career, however, the revelation seems only to have made him more interesting to audiences. After his success in My Best Friend's Wedding (1997), in which, however, he played a gay character, critics predicted that he would become the first openly gay romantic leading man in Hollywood. Everett received such ecstatic audience responses at test screening of the film that the director shot additional scenes that beefed up his role.

Everett's success rekindled discussion about whether audiences would accept an openly gay actor in heterosexual roles. Ian McKellen's response was blunt: "Bullshit, I think that anyone who believes [that audiences would not accept gay actors] is just battling homophobia within themselves." He has pointed out that one of the first roles offered to him after the public revelation of his homosexuality was that of a notorious womanizer, former British cabinet minister John Profumo.

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Similarly, the coming out of Hong Kong actor Leslie Cheung, the acclaimed star of Chen Kaige's Farewell My Concubine (1993), did not damage his career. Admittedly, however, Cheung specialized in playing sexually ambiguous roles.

Still, the perception remains that being identified as homosexual can severely limit an actor's career. When Richard Chamberlain belatedly came out in a memoir published in 2003, he cited as one reason for his decision to remain closeted for so long the fear that being honest and open would damage his career.

A lawsuit filed by Tom Cruise, in which he charges a tabloid with falsely alleging that he is a homosexual, contends that such allegations could result in audiences' inability to identify with him as an action hero.

An openly gay casting director seems to confirm the possibility, when he recently said that he refuses to date gay actors because an actor seen in public with him risked confinement to gay or sexually ambiguous roles.

Indeed, even the initial assumption that Rupert Everett's openness about his homosexuality would not harm his career has recently been challenged. Everett has complained that studio executives have denied him roles because they believe that an audience will not accept an openly gay man in a romantic leading role.

Moreover, director Irwin Winkler, who recently made De-Lovely (2004), about Cole Porter's life as a gay composer, acknowledged that the fear of being "outed" as a gay actor still permeates Hollywood. "Most of the actors that are gay," he said, "are not openly gay at all and there are some that we know that if we talked about them . . . would be pretty upset."

In his 2002 autobiography, Why the Long Face? The Adventures of a Truly Independent Actor, Craig Chester chronicles the lost battles of being an openly gay actor, concluding that "being in the closet is good for business." He cites the example of Sean Hayes, who plays an outrageously stereotypical character in Will and Grace, noting that if Hayes "can't come out because of the ramifications . . . then who can?"

Actor Robert Gant stayed in the closet for over a decade while securing roles in such television shows as Caroline in the City. After coming out he landed an important role in Queer as Folk. Even so, he believes that openly gay actors will be limited in their choices until one achieves the stature of a romantic lead.

Richard C. Bartone

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   Related Entries
  
arts >> Overview:  Film

Since cinema began, Hollywood has been fascinated with finding ways of representing homosexuality.

arts >> Overview:  Film Actors: Lesbian

Lesbian actresses have played a significant role in Hollywood, but their contributions have rarely been recognized or spoken of openly; the "lavender marriage" is by no means a relic of the past.

arts >> Allen, Chad

Unlike many child stars, Chad Allen has successfully made the transition to accomplished adult actor; he has also come out as a gay man and become an advocate for glbtq rights.

arts >> Baitz, Jon Robin

A leading contemporary American playwright, Jon Robin Baitz produces works that are both morally serious and politically conscious.

arts >> Barrowman, John

Accomplished actor and singer John Barrowman has won plaudits as a musical theater star, as well as for his roles in film and television.

arts >> Bass, Lance

Singer Lance Bass gained fame as a member of the boy band *Nsync; since coming out in 2006, he has spoken on behalf of glbtq rights.

arts >> Batt, Bryan

Actor and designer Bryan Batt achieved fame playing a closeted advertising executive on television, but in his own life he has been active in affirming the naturalness of homosexuality.

arts >> Bogarde, Sir Dirk

Although British film star Dirk Bogarde only tacitly acknowledged his homosexuality during most of his life, he deserves credit as the first actor to create a sympathetic gay character in British film.

arts >> Busch, Charles

Actor-writer-director Charles Busch has distinguished himself through his virtuouso performances of "grand dame" characters and through his writing of dramatic vehicles for these roles.

arts >> Butler, Dan

Actor Dan Butler, best known for his portrayal of "Bulldog" Briscoe on the television comedy Frasier, not only came out as a gay man, but also authored and starred in the gay-themed play The Only Worse Thing You Could Have Told Me.

arts >> Callow, Simon

Versatile British actor Simon Callow has played a wide variety of roles on the stage, in films, and on television, but has remarked on his special affinity for gay roles.

arts >> Chamberlain, Richard

Deeply closeted for most of his life, American actor Richard Chamberlain finally acknowledged his homosexuality in a memoir published in 2003.

arts >> Chéreau, Patrice

Award-winning French director, screenwriter, and actor Patrice Chéreau has earned international renown for his visionary, often controversial, productions of opera, theater, and film

arts >> Cheung, Leslie

Androgynously handsome Hong Kong actor and pop singer Leslie Cheung played sexually ambiguous characters, as well as romantic leads in both gay- and heterosexually-themed films.

arts >> Clift, Montgomery

Montgomery Clift was not only an extraordinary actor, but also an isolated and tortured, closeted gay man, who used drugs and alcohol to escape his pain.

arts >> Coco, James

Quick-witted, roly-poly, sad-eyed clown James Coco proved one of the most versatile and successful American stage, film, and television actors from the late-1960s through the mid-1980s.

arts >> Cumming, Alan

Versatile actor Alan Cumming has performed a wide variety of roles on stage, screen, and television, earning numerous awards for his acting and also for his support of glbtq causes.

arts >> Dean, James

Although he spent only two years in Hollywood before his untimely death, James Dean became an enduring icon of American film, one whose brooding non-conformity helped challenge rigid notions of masculinity.

arts >> Drivas, Robert

Actor-director Robert Drivas brought a provocative sexuality and an emotional intensity to his stage and screen performances at a time when the male body was being liberated as the object of the audience's gaze.

arts >> Everett, Rupert

Since 1989 when he came out in a press interview in Paris, Rupert Everett has defined and re-defined himself for the mass media as a gay male actor, being notably open about his homosexuality.

arts >> Flynn, Errol

Handsome, athletic, graceful, and charismatic, actor Errol Flynn was widely rumored to enjoy sexual relations with men as well as women.

arts >> Gielgud, Sir John

Sir John Gielgud has long been acknowledged as one of the greatest British actors of the twentieth century.

arts >> Granger, Farley

Actor Farley Granger was best known for playing strikingly handsome yet emotionally vulnerable young men in classic 1940s films, but his long and productive career encompassed theater and television roles as well.

arts >> Grant, Cary

Although actor Cary Grant consistently denied rumors of his bisexuality, his good looks, charisma, and ambiguous sexuality enchanted women and men alike.

arts >> Haines, William "Billy"

Among the top five motion picture actors from 1928 to 1933, William "Billy" Haines later became one of the most successful interior designers in the country.

arts >> Harris, Neil Patrick

Child actor Neil Patrick Harris has made a successful transition to mature roles, showcasing his singing and dancing abilities along the way; he has also spoken out on behalf of glbtq causes.

arts >> Harris, Sam

Multi-talented Sam Harris is best known as a singer and actor; since coming out publicly in 1999, he has lent his voice to the cause of glbtq rights.

arts >> Hawthorne, Sir Nigel

Somewhat to his chagrin, British stage and film actor Nigel Hawthorne was acclaimed as the first openly gay actor to be nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor.

arts >> Hayes, Sean

Actor Sean Hayes gained renown and awards for his role as a gay character on the hit comedy series Will & Grace, but did not come out publicly as a gay man until 2010.

arts >> Helpmann, Sir Robert

Actor, dancer, and choreographer, Sir Robert Helpmann was present at the creation of premier ballet companies in both Great Britain and Australia.

arts >> Hudson, Rock

A product of Hollywood's star system, Rock Hudson became an international symbol of heterosexuality, wearing a mask until it was savagely ripped off when he was diagnosed with AIDS.

arts >> Hunter, Tab

Actor Tab Hunter's blond good looks made him a movie idol in the 1950s, but his romantic heterosexual roles concealed his identity as a gay man.

arts >> Inman, John

Acclaimed comic actor John Inman gained international fame for his endearing portrayal of the fey salesman Mr. Humphries on the television series Are You Being Served?.

literature >> Jarman, Derek

In both his films and his writings, Derek Jarman's explicit project was to celebrate gay sexuality and imagine a place for it in English culture.

arts >> Jeter, Michael

Versatile character actor Michael Jeter played a wide variety of roles on stage, in movies, and on television, and also helped raise money for AIDS research.

arts >> Laughton, Charles

Anglo-American stage and screen actor and director Charles Laughton scored many triumphs in a distinguished career, but nevertheless suffered for much of his life from self-loathing and internalized homophobia.

arts >> Mapa, Alec

Alec Mapa has enjoyed success as an actor and on the comedy circuit. He is also an activist for glbtq rights.

arts >> McKellen, Sir Ian

Arguably the finest Shakespearean actor of his generation, Ian McKellen was the first British subject to be knighted after publicly revealing his homosexuality, an event that proved more controversial within the gay community than in the mainstream.

arts >> Novarro, Ramon

The romantic idol of Hollywood silent films in the 1920s, Ramon Novarro has been perceived as a distinctly effeminate performer.

arts >> Perkins, Anthony

In his personal life, American actor Anthony Perkins often seemed as tortured as the troubled characters he played on film, hiding--and perhaps despising--his true nature while desperately seeking happiness and "normality."

arts >> Pierce, David Hyde

Award-winning actor David Hyde Pierce, best known for his comic performance on the long-running hit comedy television series Frasier, belatedly acknowledged his homosexuality in 2007.

arts >> Reilly, Charles Nelson

Funnyman Charles Nelson Reilly gained fame during the 1970s as a regular guest on game shows and celebrity talk shows, but he was also an accomplished character actor, director, and teacher.

arts >> Roos, Don

Screenwriter and director Don Roos has won plaudits for films that feature gay and lesbian characters and that also give strong roles to women.

arts >> Sargent, Dick

Most widely remembered as "the second Darrin" on the television sitcom Bewitched, actor Dick Sargent remained closeted for most of his career, but came out in 1991 and embraced gay activism as a "new mission in life."

arts >> Stiers, David Ogden

Best known to television viewers for his role as Major Charles Emerson Winchester III on the series M*A*S*H, David Ogden Stiers has had a long and successful career.

arts >> Takei, George

Best known for his role as Mr. Sulu on the cult-classic television series Star Trek and subsequent films, George Takei has, since coming out as a gay man, also been an articulate advocate for glbtq rights.

arts >> Valentino, Rudolph

The androgynous persona, at once assertively virile and gracefully sensitive, of Rudolph Valentino, the most popular of silent-screen stars, threatened traditional images of American masculinity in a crucial period of cultural change.

arts >> Webb, Clifton

American actor Clifton Webb rescued the film sissy from secondary status, then moved on to a variety of comic and dramatic roles.

arts >> Winfield, Paul

Film, stage, and television actor Paul Winfield was openly gay in his private life, but maintained public silence about his homosexuality.

arts >> Young, Will

The first winner of the British Pop Idol talent show, Will Young has gone on to achieve success as a recording artist and actor, while also using his celebrity to advocate for good causes.


    Bibliography
   

Anger, Kenneth. Hollywood Babylon II. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1977.

Dyer, Richard. Stars. London: BFI Publishing, 1999.

Ehrenstein, David. Open Secret: Gay Hollywood 1928-2000. New York: Perennial, 2000.

Hadleigh, Boze. Conversations with My Elders. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1986.

The Knitting Circle. Lesbian & Gay Staff Association, South Bank University, London. www.sbu.ac.uk/stafflag.

Mann, William J. Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969. New York: Penguin Books, 2001.

Stubbard, John. "Only Monty." Out/Takes 3 (1984): 23.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Bartone, Richard C.  
    Entry Title: Film Actors: Gay Male  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated July 9, 2007  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/film_actors_gay.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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