Not that long ago a straight man playing a gay character could mean career death. Screenwriter Barry Sandler told us about the difficulty of casting the male leads in 1982’s Making Love, in large part because agents warned against it. The “wisdom” of the time said that once an audience had seen an actor in a gay role, they could never accept him as a romantic lead.
How times change.
Related: Dayum: The first trailer for hyper-erotic gay drama “Beach Rats” is here
Today, of course, a number of certified hunks gained their fame from playing gay characters. Hal Sparks (Queer As Folk) and Eric McCormick (Will & Grace) did as much on TV, while major stars like Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain), Jude Law (Wilde), Hugh Grant (Maurice) and most recently, Nick Robinson (Love, Simon) have done the same in films, and their careers have taken off rather than reversed.
Now along comes heartthrob Harris Dickinson. The 21-year-old made quite a splash on the indie circuit last year for his performance in Beach Rats as a closeted teen bodybuilder who cruises for older men on hookup sites. Besides earning him many followers on Instagram, his performance helped him score a role in one of this summer’s indie hits, Postcards from London, about a queer escort who moonlights as an art enthusiast. You can size it up at Las Angeles’ Outfest this July 20.
He also appears this years in the FX TV series Trust opposite Donald Sutherland and Hillary Swank. Trust debuted to positive buzz earlier this year, though Dickinson’s biggest role lays ahead: that of Prince Philip, Sleeping Beauty’s beau in Disney’s Maleficent II. The film will feature him playing opposite Hollywood heavy hitters Michelle Pfeiffer, Elle Fanning, and Angelina Jolie.
Perhaps out of respect for his early, enthusiastic gay audience, Dickinson has yet to disclose his sexual orientation publicly. He did, however, share his feelings on playing gay with Out, and, well, we don’t know what to think:
I was comfortable doing it. I’m comfortable in my sexuality and in my body now. You have to come to terms with the fact that you’re going to bare yourself on-screen and it’s going to exist there forever, but I cared enough about the character that I just wanted to throw myself into it.
Dickinson remains a rising star to watch.
As J. Paul Getty III in Trust:
As Joe in Postcards from London:
Bonus: check out a few shots from his Instagram.
Now if we could just get some gay actors in some gay leads. When’s that era going to start?
Gay men have played straight roles forever. I don’t see what the big deal is.
Did Hollywood find a true cannibal to play Hannibal Lecter?
It’s acting, right? If films left every role open until the right gay lead came along……
What kind of business decision is that?
“Today, of course, a number of certified hunks gained their fame from playing gay characters…”
Today? “Queer as Folk” was 1998. “Maurice” was 1987. As long as you are adding breakout rolls for playing gay characters in the 80’s and 90’s you can add Daniel Day-Lewis – “My Beautiful Laundrette”, 1986, and Russell Crowe – “The Sum of Us”, 1994.
Wow, really? No mention of Jussie Smollett from “Empire” or Keiynan Lonsdale who was in “Love, Simon” and stars on “Flash” and “Legends of Tomorrow”? Both of these guys have very successful careers on both television, film, and music.
I reread the title. Either way, it’s weird that he didn’t pick any POC.
Brad Rowe in Shelter and Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss.
“Beach Rats” is a really really bad movie. The kind of movie i really hate because it’s just a boring soft porn trying to pretend it is deep or serious.
It’s just empty and boring. I hardly believe his career start with this movie.
I disagree. Beachrats was everything. Overshadowed by Call Me By Your Name, but it was interesting to watch him discover himself whilst dealing with tramautic events like the loss of a loved one. He seemed paralyzed and yet always scurrying to survive. Very captivating.
Yeah. Terrible movie. 85 % fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Won 9 awards. Nominated for 15 more. Just really dreadful.
I know the argument that an actor should be able to play any role is always given in this situation, and maybe that is okay. But one this is for certain, you’re never going to see Meryl Streep put on blackface and play the lead role in the life story of Maya Angelou. That’s never going to happen.
Race is a whole different ball game.
The only person who shouldn’t have played gay was Will Smith because he wasn’t actor enough to kiss a guy – and boy, did God punish him!
Well, in The House of the Spirits Meryl Streep, Glenn Close and Winona Ryder were cast to play South American women.
Yeah Beach Rats was amazing. Gritty and harsh, so vibrant and real. Sorry you didn’t get it.
To me that is one of the most arrogant statements that can be made about films. “Sorry you didn’t get it”? Because someone didn’t like, or thought something was overrated, whatever the case may be doesn’t mean they didn’t “get it”. It means just what it says, they didn’t like it, or thought it was overrated. I am a fairly well read gay man and I thought Beach Rats was highly overrated. Sorry you didn’t get something so simple.
The movie used as an example of how risky it was to play gay was 35 years ago. Will and Grace was so long ago that Jack is a Grandfather, Queer as Folk was 20 years ago.
Comments are closed.