Ian McKellen Believes Gay Stars Are Still Pressured To Stay in the Closet
Hollywood still has a ways to go when it comes to accepting gay actors and actresses, according to openly gay actor and longtime LGBT rights activist Sir Ian McKellen, who told PopEater on Thursday that he fears agents and managers are still forcing stars to stay in the closet.
"I don't think any gay person is going to be happy and bring joy to themselves and other people unless they can be honest about their sexuality, and if other people don't like that honestly, that's a comment on them and not on the person who is being honest," McKellen said at the Savannah Film Festival.
"That might seem a harsh thing to say to a young actor who is being advised by an agent to stay in the closet. There are no openly gay stars in Hollywood, so someone is telling them to shut up."
The decision for a person in the public eye to come out of the closet remains gut wrenching. Just ask singer Ricky Martin, who this week admitted to Oprah that finally saying he was gay to his fans around the world reduced him to tears.
"When I realized, OK, I just pressed send; I was alone," the 38-year-old told Winfrey. "I was in my studio alone for a minute. My assistant walked in and I just started crying like a little baby. I started crying."
While it may seem as though Hollywood has moved forward by leaps and bounds when it comes to acceptance of gay actors and actresses, that is because now there are some rather than none. There are still only a handful of big names, such as Ellen DeGeneres, Neil Patrick Harris, Wanda Sykes, Jane Lynch and Cynthia Nixon, that have come out of the closet and maintained successful careers.
Hollywood also still seems to think that gay-bashing humor -- such as the recent line in the Vince Vaughn film 'The Dilemma,' which equated being "gay" to being "lame" -- is entirely acceptable. Director Ron Howard and star Vaughn both said they did not want the joke removed from the film. But Vaughn did say he never meant to hurt anyone's feelings.
"I don't think Hollywood is sensitive to the gay and lesbian community unless someone gets caught then you get an apology. The unwritten rules of engagement are we don't want people discussing their sexuality," explains celebrity publicist and image consultant Michael Sands. "Hollywood is very homophobic and behind the times like the military. There is this unbreakable silent law that if you come out, your career will be ruined because no one wants to hire someone who is gay or lesbian."
McKellen, who came out in 1988 at the age of 49, says that he was less concerned about coming out when he did because he wasn't a huge movie star. He explains that his film career didn't really take off until he was out of the closet, but he still doesn't believe the modicum of fame gained by lying about your sexuality is worth it.
"If you're going around telling a lie you may get by but you won't be half as happy as you would be if you came out," McKellen said. "If that means you have to give up hopes of being one of the three or four young sex symbols in Hollywood so be it. You probably weren't going to be one of those anyway. That happens by chance and it doesn't last for very long."
McKellen added that just because an actor or actress chooses to be honest about their sexuality, it doesn't mean they have to have loose lips regarding all parts of their personal lives.
"There is a difference between living a private life and being in the closet. Being in the closet means you're lying about your life but just because you come out doesn't mean you have to talk about every affair you have. You don't have to talk about what you do in bed anymore than I have to talk about the food I eat."
Of course, the difficulty that stems from admitting one's homosexuality in the real world extends far beyond the concern of losing a film role because of who you choose to fall in love with. GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios, who led the fight against the gay joke in 'The Dilemma' earlier this month, says he sees at least some progress when it comes to gay rights in Hollywood and that small steps are better than no steps at all.
"Hardships that result from coming out extend far beyond Hollywood," Barrios told PopEater. "This is about a climate where kids are bullied, where gay and transgender Americans can be fired in most states simply for being who they are, and where soldiers are discharged after coming out. As more and more gay people decide to live openly, Americans are understanding the common ground -- that we all share the same hopes and aspirations. The same is true in Hollywood as evidenced by the critical and popular praise for actors like Neil Patrick Harris, Jane Lynch, Wanda Sykes and Cynthia Nixon."
Well, he''s right. Acting is one of the most homophobic professions out there. Closeting is all but mandatory, and producers get away with blatant discrimination.%0D\
Still, most of the talk about closeting actors centers around what "cowards" the actors are. Somehow it never includes a mention of open discrination from the higer-ups.
As much as I like Wanda Sykes, she didn''t come out until Prop 8 was defeated and the protests were underway. %0D\
Wanda could have used her celebrity and come out BEFORE the vote. But once again, Wanda was another one who came out when it was relatively "safe" for her.%0D
I wonder if Ian has had this discussion with Alan Rickman. They seem to hang out a lot.
If all the actors who are gay came out at once then it wouldn''t be such a problem.\
Straight men typically don''t run off to Hollywood with dreams of becoming a "stah". I don''t understand why Straight America haven''t put the connection between the typical high school drama department (gay as a goose) and Hollywood.
Agencies in Hollywood or the Music business will not sign out gay talent.
I love the closet.
While I agree with just about everyone here, I can also understand why some stars don''t come out.%0D\
Some out stars do continue to do well. But if Taylor Lautner were to come out, I have no doubt that the films he''s being offered would be pulled. His career would be devastated.%0D\
Yeah, he''d get applause here (while also getting bashed for not coming out earlier). But we don''t pay the bills, and we don''t know what the kid''s dealing with "in real life."%0D\
Simply calling this cowardice seems weak to me.%0D\
Maybe we''d have a bunch of actors like NPH and Sean Hayes who''d continue to do well, but I can definitely understand the fear at taking that risk -- especially if Hollywood is that homophobic.
Once actors reveal any kind of aspect about themselves to the public, they run the risk of that aspect effecting their popularity. A movie star''s popularity is 100% dependent on whether or not the public will spend the $12 movie ticket price, $50 concert ticket or tune in week after week.\
And that willingness to spend the money can be affected by any number of physical attributes including looks, height, hair color; and others including political affiliation, sexual orientation, marital fidelity, etc. It may not be fair to the star, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and if I''m beholding Out Actor X on screen in a love scene with Actress Y, and I can''t get the picture of Out Actor X sucking the big ol'' dick of his Live-In Lover Y, I''m not spending that $12.
Ya think, sir?
In the music industry. If a guy sings a love song it is assumed he is singing it to a girl. Girls like that and pay for it. If he comes out, all of a sudden he is no longer singing to them, but to some other guy and the girls stop buying.\
The females who do this, claim they are not homophobic, it is just that they can''t feel the reality of his love song anymore.
[quote]I can also understand why some stars don''t come out.%0D\
I agree. We can''t expect all straight people to buy into out gay actors when they''re in a hetero love scene. %0D\
I''m one of those people who boycotts stars due to their private lives. No way would I pay to see homophobe Cruise in a film. Never would you catch me watching a Mel Gibson film. Charlie Sheen will never be on my TV. Right now, Ron Howard and Vince Vaughn are on my shitlist, along with anyone who contributes to Republicans.
The Jerry Lewis telethon used to be advertised with "stay up late, and watch the stars come out!" So, it used to be common, even celebrated, for stars to come out. I guess this changed with the moral majority because now Lewis is just as homophobic as anyone else.
"We can''t expect all straight people to buy into out gay actors when they''re in a hetero love scene."%0D\
Absurd. ALL of Liberace''s fans were women- they knew. Barry Manilow- ditto. Everyone assumes Tom Cruise is gay and that presumption never hurt his career. It was the opposite- his career took a downturn when he started his Katie Holmes act.%0D\
No one cares anymore, particularly not women. It''s a myth that keeps getting facilitated by idiots. Most people support domestic partnerships and gays in the military. Gay marriage keeps getting more support every day. Times have changed.%0D
I''ve met Ian McKellen and I like him, but c''mon! %0D\
Magneto is not an object of sexual desire; (well maybe to some); Wolverin is!%0D\
He can be out and still work, but could Hugh Jackman?%0D\
Yeah r3 it''s real safe to come out now that''s why everyone''s doing it.
If all gay actors cam out of the closet the business would change. You do not change what is wrong in society by accommodating the wrongness. Isn''t that obvious?\
There is no excuse in today''s world not to be out if you''re gay. You are not only hurting yourself; you are hurting your gay brothers and sisters, and you are hurting gay youth by supporting the vile notion that there is something wrong with being gay. \
Come out. Period.
"I agree. We can''t expect all straight people to buy into out gay actors when they''re in a hetero love scene."%0D\
And yet on the other hand we expect many people the world over to believe a man walked on water or ascended to ''heaven'' after death only to return. And, they never question it. %0D\
One world-dominanting mass delusion is fine, but accepting a real-time gay man acting a straight part in a film is somehow a stretch?
I agree, the world is deluded
"He can be out and still work, but could Hugh Jackman?%0D
Probably not because he/his agents - like many of these actors if they are gay - have spent inordinate amounts of time covering up their personal circumstances and crafting a straight image for themselves which is then too hard to backtrack on until their twilight years when separated fom wifey and no longer acting. %0D
It's their own fault by then. They designed their bed, they laid in it.%0D
Actors like Bomer are more ambiguous and play the game more carefully. They don't run their mouths off or surround themselfves with beards or have their PR guy plant fake het 'dalliances' (ala Jake Gyllenhaal) in the press every other day. So they ease their own passage for the future IF they wish to publicly come out - if gay. A lot of it is down to how the individual has played the system and how classily they play it.%0D
Many actors will never publicly come out because they've all spent so much time/effort denying being gay and bearding/fooling around with their image too much.
As an actor you can play somebody who is not yourself, that is why NPR still plays a straight guy on TV. \
As a musician, you are suppose to be "real" (many aren''t I know but that is the accepted shtick)
I can understand being vary if everything you sing about are romantic love-songs. That''s more what chicks buy, and if they know it''s a guy singing about a guy they have a reason to feel excluded. But there''s a whole world of songs not just about romantic love out there and singer''s sexuality shouldn''t come in question there.
Yes but for all the songs that have been clearly written about gay-girl, gay people still listen to them and et enjoyment out of them. You can transpose the gender in your head or sing along without it affecting the fundamentals of a song. %0D\
A reference to ''she'' or ''he'' in any song could be in reality vice versa, since the author may have writen it for the same sex as him/herself but transposed it into a straight relationship. You can always fantasize otherwise or apply your own set of suppositions on any song.%0D\
I can sing along with a song about a female knowing full well I can apply the sentiment to a man or a woman. It doesn''t really matter.
"Yes but for all the songs that have been clearly written about gay-girl..."%0D\
[quote]As an actor you can play somebody who is not yourself, that is why NPR still plays a straight guy on TV. %0D\
I''ve always admired the acting ability of National Public Radio. %0D\
I agree with R22. Whatever the singer''s orientation, I hear the song as gay because that''s how it makes sense to me. I''ll translate a straight romance in a movie into gay for the same reason.\
I would guess most gay people do this in a hetero-dominated media. Straights have until now not had to, because they''ve had the luxury of almost all stories being explicitly written for them.
The point about songs is silly. Girls all have sung "Pretty Woman" or "Do-Wah-Diddy (''There she goes, just-a walkin'' down the street'')", and similar. People who need to believe the singer is singing his or her life experiences are plain dumb.
Female fans, particularity teenage ones, actually believe celebrities are singing/speaking to them. It is kinda psychotic.
A handful of Hollywood power brokers decide who will be stars. These are the same men who sample the goods of the pretty women and closeted, pretty boy actors.
[quote]Female fans, particularity teenage ones, actually believe celebrities are singing/speaking to them. It is kinda psychotic.\
This is also the population that invests the most money in singers/groups, which is especially important today when they can''t get as much from pure record sales - merchandise is mostly bought by this type of fan (those ''teenagers'' don''t actually have to be in their teens).
IMDB = 35 year old women still acting like teens.
Probably true about Jackman.
....and I still believe Walmart is the Made in China store.....
(Things that are glaringly obvious)
Nonsense, Sir Ian. I really love the babes.
r14 I agree. It is a myth that bigoted middle aged producers use so they don't have to work with openly gay actors and actresses.
It is gay agents like Peter Levine at CAA who seem to think we are in the 1950s and that actors should stay in the closet.
Well the only good thing about being a closeted actor/entertainer is that the press won't cover your real romances. Notice the coverage of Anderson Cooper's boyfriend after he came out. The media new he was gay and who he was dating, but they held out talking about Ben. Now it is open season.
You're right. That's why it should end.
Creative Artists Agency????
IMG is BY FAR the worst closeting agency on the planet.
R39 They're all about as awful as the next when it comes to closeting their clients.
In other news: Water is wet.
IMG closets the potted ferns in their reception area.
I think actors like Matt Bomer are able to be out and accepted because whilst they are known for acting they don't court celebrity so people know he is gay but it doesn't define him whereas others who are constantly in the press magazines etc are defined much more by their personal life so people struggle to see beyond the real person. I am not going to name a straight A lister as this is Datalounge and someone will claim they are gay but try imagining some A list pussy hound playing gay. It just doesn't sit well.
Basically actors should come out but not whore themselves to the press I suppose is what I am saying. Same goes for straight guys who may want to play gay parts.
I'm not sure this makes an iota of sense as I am struggling to explain what I mean.
These Actors have to stay in the closet because they are talentless and their career depends on fraus and teenagers that "are in love" with them.
[quote]These Actors have to stay in the closet because they are talentless and their career depends on fraus and teenagers that "are in love" with them.
Ain't that the truth!
All avenues are open to heterosexual actors. Meanwhile for openly gay actors, roles have been limited to gay characters (usually not leading parts) or characters with no stated sexuality. A few roles here and there of heterosexual characters pop up ususally they are not sexual. Closeted gay actors fair better than openly gay actors but not as good as heterosexual actors. This has been the situation for decades if not the entire history of Hollywood. What has changed is there are more openly gay actors now.
Listening to Michael Feinstein singing a love song to a lady on radio this morning brings forth the idea that some gay men don't have what it takes to be convincing heteros in some situations.
That HBO documentary The Out List was on last night. Pretty darn good. Is there a thread about it?
All gay people need to step out. Period.
People are ashamed to be gay
[quote]"There is a difference between living a private life and being in the closet. Being in the closet means you're lying about your life but just because you come out doesn't mean you have to talk about every affair you have. You don't have to talk about what you do in bed anymore than I have to talk about the food I eat."
Surely, we are entitled to know "top or bottom?"
[quote]All gay people need to step out. Period.
I agree. I understand if you're a teenager or your early 20's, but after 25, you need to grow a fucking pair and stop being a wimp.
[quote]People are ashamed to be gay
Sadly, that seems to be the case a lot of the time.
Of course people are ashamed to be gay when they are taught that being gay is something to be ashamed of. We are changing that, but it takes generations.
R20 I agree with you with NPR but unfortunately with films leading men are still closeted for a reason. The gay male phobia in Hollywood is so alarming. You'd think with so many gays in Hollywood that they would understand that gay guys can play straight BUT profits mean more to a lot of people more than anything else.Then again women can get away with being a lesbian or bi,look at Anne Heche when she did that film with Harrison Ford or someone like Amber Heard. Can you imagine A Hollywood leading man going out with his trcik on a regular basis?
Don't forget that Vicenza Diesel only dates in Europe.....
[quote]Then again women can get away with being a lesbian or bi,look at Anne Heche when she did that film with Harrison Ford
Didn't that film bomb? Wasn't the failure blamed on Anne's affair with Ellen?
R11, could not disagree with you more. Both sexes and sexualities respond to the feeling of a song and lyric, not whether directed to a man or a woman sexually. It's ludicrous to think that heterosexual men and women as well as gay men and women cannot and do not respond to a Frank Sinatra ballad about love in a universal manner.
Take the song Yesterday- is it less loved because the object of the song is a she? Does Elton John's "Your Song" reverberate less to straight people because they know now that for him, he is singing to a man. Not remotely.
Acting is acting- you are as good as you can convince your audience. Straight men playing gay men seem to be pretty good at it- it does not mean they are gay, like much of DL thinks, It means they are good actors. Good gay actors can do the same in a heterosexual part and have done so since the beginning of film.
Naw- Hollywood is made of cowards to a great extent- not just the actors, but the business people urging them to stay closeted. It's ironic because politically they tend to be liberal. Yet on this issue they side with Rush Limbaugh.
Anyone in public life, any figure who makes a living in a public career, whether politics or entertainment, in my opinion, is fair game for outing. Anyone lying to make money and have a career off the continued suffering of others, in public, is fair game.
I want so badly for John Robert's past personal life to become public record, just like his homophobic vote this past week on the Supreme Court. I am quite sure many in the press know about his past life in DC.
Not to be tiresomely PC, but, regarding the uproar about "gay" being equated with "lame" in the Vince Vaughn movie, the use of "lame" as an adjective for stupid, witless, ineffective is just as offensive--particularly to people with mobility disabilities. While such folk may refer to themselves as "crips" (in the way other groups have reclaimed--sometimes controversially--other stigmatizing words), they rightly, IMO, balk when others thoughtlessly use these terms.
Public Service Announcement/Mini-Lecture of the Day.
Except "lame" has long been defined to include "weak, uninspiring or clumsy" with respect to something meant to be convincing or entertaining, so the expansion of the meaning does not come directly from "disabled."
"In the music industry, if a guy sings a love song it is assumed he is singing it to a girl. Girls like that and pay for it. If he comes out, all of a sudden he is no longer singing to them, but to some other guy and the girls stop buying."
And that's the sheer stupidity of the whole thing. Whether a singer is straight or gay, he or she is not singing directly to any of his/her fans -- whether they be female or male, straight or gay. So, for example, any female fan who would reject a gay male singer or movie star because it destroys her fantasy of that star romancing her -- as if that would EVER happen -- is deranged.
Hollywood is more bigoted than the general society. Don't believe Hollywood when the blame "middle America." Keep in mind that most of Hollywood is run by middle aged white men. So they use their own prejudices and pretend it is just an economic one. Or they shift the bigotry onto "rural America" or "southerners" or whatever. They do the same thing to Asians and blacks. They say that "white America" doesn't want to see Asian or black leads. Even with the success of Denzel and Will Smith.
The only gay actors that can't "play straight" are those that are bad actors or can't mask their gay voice or gay face. Gay voice can be changed so can "swishy" mannerisms. But gay face can not.