By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Holland’s controversial career advice upsets a trailblazer like Anderson, who put his career on the line in the pre-Ellen, pre–Neil Patrick Harris 1990s. “He’s the person who should be telling kids they should live their lives,” Anderson says. “That makes me angry. Here we are in 2009, and we’re telling people this?”
In fact, the studio chiefs, directors and other power brokers appear to be operating purely from personal hunches. But the view that gay actors should essentially stay in the back of the bus if they want to get from point A to point B, a feeling repeated even by gays who have established a foothold in the business, feeds a vicious cycle, says Variety Managing Editor Johnson. “Actors see the landscape, and they see that so much is stacked against them. They don’t want to give casting directors and studio heads any reason to not cast them. It’s a matter of playing it safe.”
Sony Pictures Co-Chairman Amy Pascal, asked by L.A. Weekly to comment on the issue, released a prepared statement through spokesman Steve Elzer: “Across our company,” she writes in an e-mail, “we hire the best actors and actresses for all available roles. Sexual orientation has no place or bearing in the casting process.”
Warner Bros. honcho Alan Horn did not have time to talk, and 20th Century Fox studio heads Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman said, via a spokesperson, that they would have to “pass on this one.” Just-ousted Universal Chairman Marc Shmuger was “just too crazed” with work to comment, according to his spokesperson (back in September). Calls to Paramount head Brad Grey and MGM chief Mary Parent have not been returned.
With such obvious fear reigning over Tinseltown, gay actors who have already hit it big dread the thought that if they come out, their careers will be devastated. “For A-list actors,” says Kirby Dick, an award-winning documentarian who looked into Hollywood’s gay closet when he was working on his most recent film, Outrage, about closeted politicians, “there’s a real fear of lost income for him and everyone surrounding him.”
A kind of paralyzing fear rules the day in Hollywood, and even prompts some gay movie stars to avoid Bragman altogether. The widespread paranoia confounds Bob Witeck, CEO and co-founder of Witeck-Combs Communications, a major public-relations and marketing firm that has conducted in-depth research on Americans’ attitudes toward gays and lesbians. Based in Washington, D.C., Witeck has spent years undertaking and studying public-opinion surveys about gay life in America.
“The data show there should be more boldness in Hollywood to hire gay actors in leading roles,” Witeck says. “Even among conservatives who are polled, the public’s attitudes have changed. They are ready to accept gays and lesbians.”
Witeck cites several recent polls to back up his analysis. Gallup, one of the nation’s foremost polling companies, has, over time, asked Americans if “homosexuals” should have “equal job opportunities.” In 1977, just 56 percent of those polled said yes. Thirty-one years later, in 2008, nearly nine out of 10 Americans surveyed (89 percent) answered in the affirmative.
“The way people view gays and lesbians in the workplace is a very strong indicator of acceptance,” Witeck notes.
Also in 2008, Harris Interactive, another highly reputable polling group, found in a joint survey with Witeck-Combs that “an overwhelming majority (79 percent) of heterosexuals feel that how an employee does his job, and not their sexual orientation, should be the standard for judging.”
In 2007, Harris Interactive and Witeck-Combs deduced that if a gay athlete came out of the closet, 72 percent of the American public would not change their opinion of him, and 4 percent would have a “more favorable” opinion. Interestingly, Americans, much like Hollywood studio heads and casting directors, think that while they themselves are tolerant, other Americans won’t be. In the same poll, people believed 72 percent of the public would have a “less favorable” opinion of the athlete.
But the numbers show otherwise.
Witeck says that “trends are clearly in the right direction” for gay actors to come out of the closet and for studio chiefs and casting directors to shake off their erroneous views. For example, Harris Interactive and Witeck-Combs found that 82 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 — the audience Hollywood targets — believe gays and lesbians should be legally allowed to marry or enter into domestic partnerships.
“When the public isn’t forced to make moral judgments in the polls,” says Witeck, “they are very accepting of gays and lesbians as people.”
In fact, the mounting data suggest something far more revealing about Hollywood than about the U.S.: Tinseltown has long been criticized as an isolated subculture that holds itself in excessively high regard, viewing everyday Americans as behind the times. There is every possibility that Hollywood is projecting its old biases about America, without learning how the public really feels.
People are in fact becoming much more tolerant out in flyover country (where I live).
A gay athlete's or politician's (or coworker's -- assuming 'out' doesn't mean 'in your face')orientation has utterly no bearing on their job.
However, that's not quite the case for an actor trying to portray a character in a het romantic relationship (if a significant part of the story), it most definitely has some bearing on the job, requiring an extra level of suspension of disbelief above and beyond the norm when viewing the performance. 'Bigotry' has nothing to do with it.
Yes, some actors might pull it off, but concern on the part of casting directors and producers is hardly irrational..
Thanks for the interesting article. I'm glad to hear that you are supportive of trans issues, but wanted to add my support to the earlier comment regarding trans pronouns etc. partway through the article. Simple rewording which respects the trans person's preferences about pronouns etc is almost always possible. Here (just to spell it out) it would have been more appropriate to say: "The phone interrupts him � it�s someone calling about one of his newest clients, Chaz Bono, child of Cher and Sonny Bono. Raised as Chastity, Bono is making the personal and public transition to becoming a transgendered man, and may become the best-known American person to do so. Bragman has been working closely with Bono, advising him to disclose his gender reassignment, but says, �We�re keeping our powder dry until the time is right, and our time is not right yet.� Other than that... thanks very much for the article, and for including trans issues!
Excellent article. It would be interesting to see if any studies could be done on the true perception of the audience. It's fascinating, for example, that Adam Lambert now has women throwing their panties at him onstage after he's come out officially. I believe many women "get it" that they'll never sleep with that star or celebrity whether they're straight or not, but have fun playing the game. Straight men, however, might have a harder time accepting a gay man as romantic straight lead. On the other hand, younger straight men now, to a large degree, don't seem to care who you sleep with. They're even open to the idea of having a gay fling or even romance. So, a lot of Hollywood's perceptions are dated as far as the younger demographic goes (which is ironic, considering that's their target market).
Hi Know It All,
It's funny...gay audiences are not turned on by straight sex, but we get over it, get into the characters, and watch the movie. You've fallen for the outdated notion that gay sex is somehow ugly or wrong or unnatural, where that's the furthest thing from the truth. It may not be something you like, which is fine. But don't push that attitude on us and try to make us feel inadequate, or give it as a reason for us to stay in the closet and deny our full, true selves. We'd never demand that from you, and we expect the same courtesy.
GREAT ARTICLE...well done...could have done without ending it with a Perez Hilton Quote...he is such a scumbag for the gay community and you just gave him PR that he craves.
I DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHO IS GAY OR LESBIAN. WATCHING A MOVIE LOVE SCENE, WHEN YOU KNOW THEY ARE GAY/LESBIAN, RUINS THE WHOLE THING. ALL YOU CAN THINK OF IS HIM SUCKING SOME GUYS DICK OR HER LICKING SOME DAMES CUNT!! HOW CAN THEY EVEN STAND TO KISS EACH OTHER FOR THE MOVIE??
If this is some attempt to restore Mr. Bragman to respectability among the gay and lesbian people he betrayed with his embrace of Doug Manchester, please forget it- it is as cheap and hollow as Mr Manchester's insulting offer.
Mr. Bragman has betrayed himself, his spouse, and every LBGT citizen in California, if not the world.
His embrace of Mr. Manchester proves that there may be a shortage of out gay men in Hollywood, but the supply of prostitutes remains ample.
The odd thing about the ridiculous argument that a gay male actor can't be "convincing" as a leadin man is this: An ACTOR is supposedly praised because he is convincing in a role that is DIFFERENT from who he is in life.
So, what could be a better display of acting talent, then, than a gay person convincing audiences that they are romantically interestd in a member of the opposite sex?
Kate Winslet won the Oscar! She's as A-list as they come. How's that a poor example? :)
In terms of Chaz Bono and transgender folks, I have the utmost respect for him and the transgender community, and I've written about their struggles for other publications. But thanks for the reminder.
It's easy for people to say "come out, come out" but these people have mortgages and car payments and perhaps they are taking care of their parents and siblings. They can't afford to lose money. Perhaps I'm naive but, I just don't think it's all that important for someone to announce their sexual orientation to the world, and personally, I don't care!!!
As for worrying about box office decline . . . it can't get much lower with the drivel being put out these days so I don't think the honchos need to worry. (And Kate Winslet hasn't had a hit since "Titantic" so that was a pretty poor example!!)
Hollywood is completely out of touch with reality. They don't like openly gay/lesbian actors. They don't like openly conservative actors. They don't like openly Christian actors. They don't like non-white actors. The funny thing is that most Americans are probably more accepting and tolerant than Hollywood.
I'm REALLy surprised at Paris Barclay for saying that. I thought he had his act together. But apparently many directorial (and other behind the scenes) talents don't. Could it be that Barclay, Holland and Roos are re-living painful coming-outs of their own and are projecting their fears onto everyone else? If they are there's no excuse for it.
Really, really sad.
I'm enjoying this article, but it could do a little better with regards to trans folks - using proper pronouns is really important, and it's really invalidating to see the article referring to Chaz Bono with "woman" where the word "person" would do. Same goes for using "she" instead of "he," and Chastity instead of Chaz.
Great article. I think if your a good actor or actress it doesn't matter who you sleep with. Also actors as well as sports figures are role models. I think people should come to terms with themsleves. The world is changing and era of purple marriages and hired beards needs to go bye bye.
Thanks for the nice words everyone.
I'm a little surprised no anonymous actor or producer or whoever has written in this comments section that the closet in Hollywood is still necessary.
I attended a SAG function the other night, and some of the panelists were basically saying that if an actor wanted to be a leading man, they have to consider staying the closet. Director Paris Barclay, in fact, ended up defending Todd Holland, a fellow TV director who said gay actors should "stay in the closet" if they want to make it in Hollywood.
It was a strange night. Even more so since no one backed up their points with hard data--i.e., 68 percent of America (just a number I'm throwing out there) hates gays and lesbians, according to the such-and-such poll. There was none of that. Just guesses and hunches and nothing scientific.
Hollywood has some major catching up to do. No wonder the studios rarely make a decent movie these days. The studio heads and others are completely out of touch with their audience, no one is taking any risks, and no one really knows what the rest of America wants, believes, or cares about. With this kind of working atmosphere, it's hard to believe that the gay closet will end any time soon in Hollywood.
Quite true about the Disney chief. That's a biggie. And equally big is Chris Colfer, who plays the gay kid on "Glee." He's gay -- and out -- in real life.
Despite any number of stragglers the closet is collapsing. Not just in Hollywood. Everywhere.
Might be nice to include an update with the news that the new head of Walt Disney Studios, Rich Ross, is an OPENLY GAY MAN.
Good job. A tough subject handeled with sensitivity and frankness. I have been around for quite while and can attest to how hard it is talk about this in the 'hood. I personally tried to get some actors I know to talk about this for this piece, and even assured confidentiality, they declined. This is more than the ususal closet issue.
This is one of those upside down descrimination cases. The public image of a profession and a surround "Hollywood" as liberal and free wheeling -when the reality is just the opposite. Ironically, this only closes the closet door more tightly.
This is so prevalent that an older actor I spoke to, who is firmly retired, largley due to age related health issues, would not speak to Patrick under any circumstances due to a fear about how his work might be viewed retroctively. That's right - how he might be viewed in films and TV he already did a number of years ago.
This is, I believe, all of a piece with the still very lopsided presence of women and people of color throughout the industry. This is still a bastion of the white male, despite certain well known exceptions. The vast majority of players are white males. No offense guys - some of my best friends are white males, but a lot of you all are a well known of bastion of a certain kind of conservatism, even if many to most of you don't realize it.
It is telling that one of the actors speaks of women having less fear of casting him. Fact is, that Patrick is dead on when he uses the ephit "faggot" as an exemplar of the problem. Too many adults are driven and haunted by school yard taunts into adulthood and unto death. Most of us doin't even realize how much the ghosts drive us.
I think the military will probably get freere of this "don't ask don't tell" stigma sooner than Hollywood. That was certainly true in racial and gender issues.
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