Being frank

Actor Paul Bettany says his gay father went back in the closet later in life

Paul Bettany in Uncle Frank
Paul Bettany in Uncle Frank (Photo: Amazon Prime Video)

British actor Paul Bettany has revealed that after his parents divorced, his father was in a relationship with a man for 20 years. However, after his partner died, Thane Bettany, a Catholic, went back into the closet.

His son believes it was because his father felt unable to grieve for the man he loved and feared not being able to get into Heaven after he died.

Paul Bettany, 49, was speaking to Total Film magazine to promote the new Amazon Prime movie, Uncle Frank, which premiered on the streaming service last week.

Related: WATCH: Paul Bettany plays gay in bittersweet trailer for Uncle Frank

In the movie, written and directed by Alan Ball (creator of Six Feet Under and True Blood), Bettany plays the part of a gay, literary professor in New York City in 1973. Originally from the south, his character, Frank Bledsoe, returns for the funeral of a family member. For Frank, returning to South Carolina stirs up painful memories of his homophobic upbringing, and questions over what to reveal about his life in New York.

Bettany’s father, Thane, an actor and dancer, was married to fellow actress, Anne, from 1968 to 1993. After their divorce, Thane found love again with a male partner.

“I had a gay father who died a couple of years ago,” said Paul. “He came out of the closet at 63. He then had a 20-year relationship with a man called Andy.

“It was a joyous relief for everybody, actually. And once his partner died, [in 2015] he was in his 80s at that point, my dad decided to go back inside the closet and say that it had all been a big misunderstanding because he was a Catholic and concerned about getting past Peter through the pearly gates.”

“The shame he felt for his sexual identity was devastating. He was unable to mourn the person who I think was the love of his life,” says Bettany.

Related: Alan Ball & Paul Bettany on exorcising demons of the past in ‘Uncle Frank’

Bettany says that his father’s experiences nearly led him to turn down the role in Uncle Frank. He recognized the role was “beautifully done”, but “didn’t really want to go there” and was “scared of it.”

Bettany is best known for roles in a range of movies, including A Beautiful Mind; Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World; The Da Vinci Code; Solo: A Star Wars Story; and several Marvel Universe films, including Iron Man and Avengers: Infinity War. He stars in the upcoming Disney+ show, WandaVision. He has been married to the actress Jennifer Connelly since 2003 and they have two children.

Uncle Frank has been met with largely positive reviews, scoring a 78% score with critics on Rotten Tomatoes and an 87% audience approval rating.