America lost one of its greats when Ernest Borgnine passed away on Sunday. Starting in the 1950s, Borgnine appeared in classics like The Flight of the Phoenix, The Dirty Dozen, Ice Station Zebra, The Poseidon Adventure, The Wild Bunch and Escape from New York—not to mention TV shows like McHale’s Navy, Airwolf and SpongeBob SquarePants.
But as much as he’s respected for his body of work, Borgnine upset Hollywood—and the gay community—in 2005 when he said he had no interest in seeing the Oscar-nominated gay-cowboy flick Brokeback Mountain. At the time, he told Entertainment Weekly, “I didn’t see it and I don’t care to see it. I know they say it’s a good picture, but I don’t care to see it,” before adding, “If John Wayne were alive, he’d be rolling over in his grave!”
In the clip above, Borgnine clarifies that he meant he’d just rather watch women then men. Whether he was telling the truth or just trying to extinguish a potential PR disaster, Borginine’s allowed to have his opinion about Brokeback. And, frankly, the movie was pretty overrated, anyway. (Oh relax, we all know it was.)
But the outcry against his crime was way out of proportion: The L.A. Times suggested he shouldn’t receive a Screen Actors Guild lifetime-achievement award because of it. The Advocate included it in its obit. (Really it’s the only reason the site ran an obit at all.)
Borgnine wasn’t out protesting the movie’s release or making speeches for Prop 8. He just didn’t want to see a movie. Granted, maybe he was ooked out over the idea of Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal bumping uglies, but the guy was, like, 88 at the time.
We were creeped out over Mila Kunis munching on Natalie Portman in Black Swan, and we’re at least several years younger than Ernie.
Borgnine acted in Hollywood for decades—we’re sure he worked alongside plenty of gay co-stars, directors, screenwriters, stagehands, technicians and makeup artists. It’s how he treated them that matters, not what he thought about some movie.