For the last few weeks American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis has been trying to pimp himself out to write the script for a planned movie based on Fifty Shades Of Grey. A couple of days ago, it was revealed he was off the shortlist of possible writers, and so as is Ellis’ penchant he took to Twitter.
However he wasn’t content with just saying he was sad he was no longer in contention for scripting duties, but also decided to tell the world he feels that, ‘Okay. Let’s finalize this. Matt Bomer is totally hot and a very good actor. He is NOT right for [Fifty Shades'] Christian Grey and it [his being gay] complicates the role’. He then added, ‘I don’t care how good an actor you are but being married to another man complicates things for playing CG.’
This has sparked off lots of accusation of Ellis being a self-loathing homophobe, although what Ellis is talking about it is actually more complex than knee-jerk reactions would suggest. What he’s discussing (although often muddily and badly phrased) is whether audiences – and even more than that, risk averse producers – are prepared to accept a gay man in as sexually frank a straight role as Christian Grey.
While people inevitably get bashed on the head for talking about things in the terms Ellis has, it is something that’s more of an issue than we’d perhaps like to think. Yes, in an ideal world, it shouldn’t matter and it is acting – Tom Cruise isn’t really an all-action secret-agent, but audiences are fine pretending he is. However there is actually a genuine question here over whether audiences will accept a gay actor in a very straight role, with part of the problem being that it’s never really been tested in a mainstream film.
I also know personally that some of my friends do find it tough to view actors as anything other than gay, once they know their sexuality, no matter what the role is (one even had the same reaction to Bomer in Magic Mike as Ellis is suggesting, as she felt that despite him playing a straight stripper, ‘He’s so gay’). There is undoubtedly a level of homophobia working there, but the fact is it exists and quite widespread. While it shouldn’t matter, when Hollywood looks at the bottom line, they’re undoubtedly going to go with the safer, straighter choice. It’s not right, but sadly that’s the way it is, and it’s as much a reflection of the truth about how society views gay people as it is about the way Hollywood works.