Although more and more actors are feeling confident enough to come out (instead of either waiting until they were dead or coming out when they need to hawk an autobiography after their fame has waned), there are still a lot who are staying firmly in the closet. Just look at Wentworth Miller, who came out a couple of days ago but in 2006 adamantly stated in an interview “I’m not gay”.
In a recent interview with The Telegraph, Harry Potter star Jason Isaacs has touched on the current situation for gay actors, saying that, “I have a lot of gay friends who don’t come out… If you are a romantic lead, there is a perception – I don’t know if it is true or not – that you will no longer be cast as straight people.”
However in this day and age he thinks that idea is ridiculous. “The notion that a gay actor can’t seem like they are in love with a woman on screen is so patently absurd I can’t believe it still exists,” he says.
The Lucius Malfoy actor added, “It is not for me to push my gay friends to come out. I certainly don’t think that anyone should sacrifice their careers, if that’s what they think it would be, to make a political statement. But my friends who have done that feel immensely relieved and walk taller in their shoes. I would never judge anyone.”
The actor touches on a tough catch 22 that gay actors, particularly in the US, face if they want major mainstream lead roles. Irrespective of whether its true of the audience or not, there’s a perception amongst many casting directors and studio executives that an actor’s sexuality both limits who will watch them (i.e., anti-gay people will avoid films starring them), and that people won’t accept them playing straight roles.
As a result of this, many actors feel pressure to stay in the closet, as the general feeling is they could lose out on good roles (and it’s certainly not unheard of for an actor to be struck off the shortlist for a major role after they’ve said they won’t either go into or stay in the closet). There is definitely more room for gay actors to play diverse roles than there used to be, but fears over how its going to limit your career – some real, some not – remain.