Artistic Freedom

Actor Viggo Mortensen defends playing gay role: “You’re assuming that I’m completely straight.”


Oscar nominee Viggo Mortensen, best known for his turn as Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, has pushed back against critics of his decision to play a gay man in his forthcoming film Falling.

Falling marks Mortensen’s debut as a feature film director. He also wrote and stars in the film as John, a married gay man who takes in his racist, homophobic and abusive father (played by Lance Henricksen) when the old man begins to show signs of dementia. Laura Linney and Terry Chen also star.

In an interview with The Times, Mortensen slammed his critics who attacked him for playing a gay character, saying it was not a “gimmick.”

“The short answer is that I didn’t think it was a problem,” the actor said. “And people then ask me: ‘Well what about Terry Chen, who plays my husband in the film, is he a homosexual? The answer is I don’t know, and I would never have the temerity to ask someone if they were, during the casting process.”

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“How do you know what my life is?” he continued. “You’re assuming that I’m completely straight. Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. And it’s frankly none of your business. I want my movie to work, and I want the character of John to be effective. If I didn’t think it was a good idea I wouldn’t do it.”

Despite his defense, Mortensen also told the outlet that having conversations about queer representation in casting is “healthy.”

“Look, these are the times we’re living in, and I think it’s healthy that those issues are brought up,” he added.

Asking an actor about his sexual history during an audition is illegal in the United States, as the law prohibits discrimination based on age, gender, race or sexuality in a job interview. Recently, queer actress Kristen Stewart also pushed back against calls for casting only openly-queer actors as queer characters, labeling the practice a “slippery slope,” and warning that doing so would also block queer actors from playing straight characters.