In his latest movie “Falling,” actor Viggo Mortensen plays a gay man whose conservative father comes to live with him in Los Angeles. Given that Mortensen is not himself a gay man, some LGBTQ activists believe that the role should have gone to a man who actually identifies that way.
Speaking with The Times, the former “Lord of the Rings” actor said he does not think it’s fair for an actor to have to divulge their sexual preferences when seeking a role.
“Look, these are the times we’re living in, and I think it’s healthy that those issues are brought up,” Mortensen said. “The short answer is that I didn’t think it was a problem. And people then ask me, ‘Well what about Terry Chen, who plays my husband in the film, is he a homosexual?’ And the answer is I don’t know, and I would never have the temerity to ask someone if they were, during the casting process.”
Mortensen added that the critics are also assuming elements about his own life that they do not fully know.
“And how do you know what my life is? 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. So if I didn’t think it was a good idea I wouldn’t do it,” he added.
The debate over whether or not non-members of the LGBTQ community should be allowed to play such roles on screen has kicked into warp drive over the past few years, with celebrities offering differing opinions at every turn. Singer Elton John, for instance, believes that straight actors should be able to play gay characters in films.
“That’s all bulls***, I’m sorry,” John said in reference to the biopic about his life starring Taron Egerton. “If people don’t like it, review-wise, or it doesn’t make one dollar, it’s the movie I wanted to make and that’s all that counts. I can look back and say, ‘You know what, I love it. I can live with it.’”
Actor Taron Egerton, who played Elton John in the “Rocketman” biopic, also told The Hollywood Reporter that although he understands the frustration that some gay men might feel about the issue, he ultimately believed that actors should be able to play characters outside of themselves.
“I have spoken to gay people for whom it’s not a problem, and I’ve spoken to gay people for whom it is a problem,” he said. “I completely understand. But for my part, I’m an actor, and I did not get into acting to just play people like me. You have to draw the line somewhere, and I don’t want to live in a world where straight people play straight people and gay people play gay people.”
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