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How can straight actors be more authentic when playing gay characters?


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#41 TopBilled

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Posted 08 March 2017 - 08:52 AM

In "Deathtrap", Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve, who are/were both "straight", I believe, had no trouble in embracing the homosexuality of their characters.

 

Homosexual men, who, suddenly, were not comfortable with their sexuality.

 

That factor probably made it easier for them to play.

 

 

Yes, and as a result, they are giving 'authentic' performances. Any discomfort or dis-ease with gay intimacy by the actors can be transferred on to the characters who are supposed to be troubled by it all.

 

But when we have the opposite-- actors who are uncomfortable, playing characters who are supposed to be comfortable-- then it doesn't work. It takes us out of the story.


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#42 rayban

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 11:50 PM

In "Deathtrap", Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve, who are/were both "straight", I believe, had no trouble in embracing the homosexuality of their characters.

 

Homosexual men, who, suddenly, were not comfortable with their sexuality.

 

That factor probably made it easier for them to play.

 

I wish that the material had allowed them more intimate moments.

 

But the material isn't about intimacy - it's about the negative effects of intimacy.

 

How "intimacy" can distort your reasoning - and lead you into some pretty wild territory.

 

 


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#43 Jlewis

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 10:56 PM

You will just have to forgive me, jaragon. I have weird reactions to movies when I see them.

 

I did not view them as "rough" in the strict sense. Don't take me too literally. Granted, that obnoxious lady in the theater was taking "rough" literally. She was a woman of strong opinions and, thankfully, I never had to meet her in person. I hate people like that. I think you can see my point about her likely being comfortable with heterosexual couples behaving like that.

 

Regarding the stars taking it down a notch, I meant more tender, softer scenes as an addition. I think they might have been trying just a little too hard. (Now I will have to re-watch it, because it has been quite a few years.)


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#44 jaragon

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 10:26 PM

I really don't get all these references to the "rough sex" in "Brokeback Mountain".   Jack and Ennis were young **** cowboys- are they suppose to hold hands for two hours?  Lee made the right choice in showing the physical aspect of their relationship even if made some audience members uncomfortable. Jack and Ennis are lovers not just camping buddies.  In the short story one gets a greater sense of their isolation  and they did not look like handsome movie stars.



#45 Jlewis

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 08:35 PM

I'm not sure about this point. I think there are still plenty of people in Hollywood and in Britain who find it risky to play characters with orientations different than their own. They have to ask if the audience will find it believable. Plus there may still be a comfort factor involved, within themselves and with their families/fans.

 

We're talking about authenticity. In some cases it is obvious the actor or actress is faking the role and not drawing on anything real, which is about as unauthentic as it gets. And when that happens, people start saying they've been miscast. 

 

I think we are on the same page, but I must be confusing you with my wording... or something.

 

Remember Peter Finch and Murray Head (both heterosexual, I think) in Sunday Bloody Sunday, which gay director John Schlesinger filmed in 1970 as a follow-up to Midnight Cowboy? There was a time when many actors were more confident in their acting roles, making a distinction between screen/stage and real life. Society was a lot more conservative back then (especially when being homosexual was still considered a medical disorder prior to 1973), but many actors really wanted to push the envelope because they felt a cause to do so, to make society better. Sadly, after the 1980s, there was a retread backward. This was partly due the AIDS epidemic forcing many back into the closet, also partly due to conservative politics and, most importantly, a film industry burnt by all of the "New Hollywood" experiments a.k.a. Heaven's Gate and focusing more on what appealed to the widest audience possible. As Harry Hamlin commented in that video a couple posts down, it was the success of Tom Hanks in Philadelphia that mainstreamed gay characters more, even though I agree with...

 

Ledger and Gyllenhaal  really had nothing to loose by playing gay.  Lee got very lucky in casting two actors who were not afraid to get physical but had that kind of magical chemistry which made their tragic love story so believable.   In recent big studio films the gay character are sexless- look at "The Imitation Game" in which Alan Turning never has one same sex romantic moment but ends having to be chemically castrated for homosexual behavior ( I would have had him at least make out with Allen Leech)

 

... and Ledger and Gyllenhaal were comfortable playing their roles. My big issue was that they were too "physical" and rough in expressing affection. That may have added to the discomfort with the lady sitting behind me in the theater, who voiced all of her opinions about gays while watching since she probably thought all gay men did was do rough stuff in tents and attack each other when kissing. I do think those two could have dialed it down a notch. Of course, she might not have had any problem with 50 Shades of Grey.


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#46 jaragon

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 06:44 PM

Which proves my point. A lot has been discussed already about this. Heath and Jake took a successful risk with Brokeback Mountain (following in the footsteps of Tom Hanks a decade earlier in Philadelphia although he didn't have to demonstrate a lot of physical affection) and, because of that, more are less "worried" and starting to diversify their roles with less concern about possible career suicide.

 

Yet there is still concern and worry...

Ledger and Gyllenhaal  really had nothing to loose by playing gay.  Lee got very lucky in casting two actors who were not afraid to get physical but had that kind of magical chemistry which made their tragic love story so believable.   In recent big studio films the gay character are sexless- look at "The Imitation Game" in which Alan Turning never has one same sex romantic moment but ends having to be chemically castrated for homosexual behavior ( I would have had him at least make out with Allen Leech)


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#47 TopBilled

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 06:27 PM

Which proves my point. A lot has been discussed already about this. Heath and Jake took a successful risk with Brokeback Mountain and, because of that, more are less "worried" and starting to diversify their roles with less concern about possible career suicide.

 

I'm not sure about this point. I think there are still plenty of people in Hollywood and in Britain who find it risky to play characters with orientations different than their own. They have to ask if the audience will find it believable. Plus there may still be a comfort factor involved, within themselves and with their families/fans.

 

We're talking about authenticity. In some cases it is obvious the actor or actress is faking the role and not drawing on anything real, which is about as unauthentic as it gets. And when that happens, people start saying they've been miscast. 


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#48 Jlewis

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 06:22 PM

For other actors, the orientation (if it's different than their own) might cause a bit of concern if they're worried people will think they're exactly like the character they play.

 

Which proves my point. A lot has been discussed already about this. Heath and Jake took a successful risk with Brokeback Mountain (following in the footsteps of Tom Hanks a decade earlier in Philadelphia although he didn't have to demonstrate a lot of physical affection) and, because of that, more are less "worried" and starting to diversify their roles with less concern about possible career suicide.

 

Yet there is still concern and worry...


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#49 TopBilled

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 06:12 PM

It is interesting how Bruno Langley, whom you, Topbilled, said is "married with children off screen, and he was earning all kinds of praise for not being afraid to really get into the sex scenes". What exactly was he afraid of, unless this was 1981-82 when Harry Hamlin took the risk in Making Love? It is not like he has to slit his wrists.

 

I mentioned him because when he started on Coronation Street his character was straight and involved with women in the beginning. Then the writers had his character come out and the actor quit a short time later (to pursue other projects). But after some years away, he returned to the role. And by then the writers had made his character, Todd, very out and rebellious-- seducing married men, etc. So not only did he have to adjust to the role being re-written with the orientation storyline, but when he came back, he had to adjust to his character becoming a home wrecker too! And yet he seems to really get into the part, probably because he knows the stories give him a lot to do, and the orientation of the character doesn't phase him at this point. For other actors, the orientation (if it's different than their own) might cause a bit of concern if they're worried people will think they're exactly like the character they play.


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#50 Jlewis

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 06:08 PM

"The Staircase" is a horrendous movie

 

I thought there was a reason it and Myra Breckinridge both lost money for 20th Century Fox. Ha ha!


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#51 jaragon

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 06:04 PM

It's been a while since I've seen this film, but Harrison definitely seemed out of place. The whole production is a bit too stagey. Though I think if TCM ever did a hairdressing theme one evening, they could easily show it with SHAMPOO and STEEL MAGNOLIAS.

"Steel Magnolia" has some good male eye candy


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#52 jaragon

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 06:03 PM

Yeah... Danny.

 

I think we all forget that movies are put together like puzzles, often with scenes not even shot sequentially in time. Although initially just animated cartoons had storyboards, they have long become a part of live-action films as well. To the actor, it is all about *The Scene*, especially since few movies are shot in one day. Only the viewer can determine if the actor is convincing in the role throughout the picture, which is really just a composite of different scenes with individual rehearsals and shot on different days with planning ahead of time.

 

Any discussion about straight actors playing gay romance must also remember how many straight actors have to play straight romances with co-stars they aren't always gaga over. Perfect example: Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh who couldn't stand each other on GWTW, but great editing did wonders with THAT film in order to make it the blockbuster of all blockbusters. Also, as reported in a blog over in Streamline, Frederic March and Verona Lake hated each other enough in I MARRIED A WITCH that Fred wanted to use the "B" word in the title instead.

 

I do sense a "connection" between Rex and Richard in THE STAIRCASE.... or at least a shared sense of humor

 

"The Staircase" is a horrendous movie


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#53 Jlewis

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 06:01 PM

Much of this analysis does amuse me on account of how many gays and lesbians played in "straight" romances since the dawn of narrative film, in addition to stage. After all, they didn't have a choice. You rarely saw romances of the other kind unless the character was a depraved villain like Dracula's Daughter.

 

Some of them pulled it off well. Ramon Novarro looks quite frisky and ferocious in The Pagan with Dorothy Janis. He reminds me of the future Rock Hudson and Neil Patrick Harris in the way they over emphasized their heterosexual characters. He seems more into Greta Garbo than Garbo is into him in Mata Hari.

 

The 1960s, the decade of James Bond and Alfie, was probably the first in mainstream Hollywood/British cinema in which stars had to hop-in-the-sack in addition to kissing and singing to Gershwin tunes. That was when your "orientation" suddenly became important. You notice the change with the two Darrins with Samantha in Bewitched, since they were the first married TV couple to share a bed on a frequent basis in primetime (if wearing clothes). Now that show is lots of fun with its cast. One episode that is a must-see is "The House That Uncle Arthur Built" (1970) with Paul Lynde thinking he found the woman of his dreams.

 

It is interesting how Bruno Langley, whom you, Topbilled, said is "married with children off screen, and he was earning all kinds of praise for not being afraid to really get into the sex scenes". What exactly was he afraid of, unless this was 1981-82 when Harry Hamlin took the risk in Making Love? It is not like he has to slit his wrists.

 

Yet I do think you have a point. Actors who identify as heterosexual are often less comfortable playing gay than the other way around because American society still has a long way to go in acceptance. Europe is more urban than rural, while America is rural with a few big cities sprinkled throughout and the more spread out the population, the less accepting the population is of diversification.


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#54 TopBilled

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 04:52 PM

The decision to "kill off" Will Horton was rampant homophobia.

 

Jarrod -

 

What makes you think that Christopher Sean, who plays Paul Norita, is gay?

 

I thought there was an article/interview where he came out. Maybe I'm mistaken. Maybe he's "bisexual." 


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#55 rayban

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 04:27 PM

And it is all about to change again, because there is yet another "new" regime taking over. The recently hired headwriter (Ron Carlivati) is a very out gay man and he's written gay stories in the past on One Life to Live and General Hospital. But with varying degrees of success. The American soaps just are not consistent when it comes to storylines for what they consider minority (token) characters. 

 

One of the key problems with Days' going forward in this area is the headwriter who was more religious and did not want to write a frontburner gay couple had killed off Will Horton. So they have had to reconstruct the storyline by having his surviving husband Sonny take up with Paul who had broken them up. I don't think the viewers are exactly buying it, and my guess is once Carlivati's material begins airing in mid-July we will see a shift away from Sonny & Paul, with either Will coming back from the dead or another new gay character for Sonny to fall in love with. The actor who plays Paul is popular and he will probably stay on contract but I don't see the show building to a Sonny & Paul romance the way it did with Sonny & Will.

 

I could wrong, but we'll see what happens. In the meantime NBC did renew the show for ten more months. Previously Days was set to run until September 2017, now the network's deal with Sony has been extended to next July. This means Carlivati has exactly one year to bring the ratings up or it will likely (and finally) be cancelled.

 

Going back to the thread topic, the actor who plays Paul is gay in real life. But the actor who plays Sonny is not, and quite frankly I don't find him all too convincing. The dialogue is often trite and the couple is stagnating. They are definitely a token couple at this point, with occasional hugging, a New Year's kiss and that's about it. They have been used more as sounding boards in the straight characters' stories than in their own romance. It will probably stay this way until the new material starts airing in mid-summer.

 

In short Days' gay couple is currently quite boring. By comparison, Aaron & Robert on Emmerdale are much more interesting and central to their show's storylines. They drive the main plots as much as the straight couples. And they have different types of interaction with the other core characters, and within their own story, there are multiple issues that are being explored.

The decision to "kill off" Will Horton was rampant homophobia.

 

Jarrod -

 

What makes you think that Christopher Sean, who plays Paul Norita, is gay?


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#56 TopBilled

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 02:07 PM

I know TopBilled probably knows more about this than I do, but I have a family member who watches Days and I recall her telling me that the reason for Will and Sonny's storylines disappearing was that the new head writer was very religious and disapproved of any homosexuality. Days has been a real merry-go-round of head writers over the past few years, and every time a new one comes in, everything gets upended.

 

And it is all about to change again, because there is yet another "new" regime taking over. The recently hired headwriter (Ron Carlivati) is a very out gay man and he's written gay stories in the past on One Life to Live and General Hospital. But with varying degrees of success. The American soaps just are not consistent when it comes to storylines for what they consider minority (token) characters. 

 

One of the key problems with Days' going forward in this area is the headwriter who was more religious and did not want to write a frontburner gay couple had killed off Will Horton. So they have had to reconstruct the storyline by having his surviving husband Sonny take up with Paul who had broken them up. I don't think the viewers are exactly buying it, and my guess is once Carlivati's material begins airing in mid-July we will see a shift away from Sonny & Paul, with either Will coming back from the dead or another new gay character for Sonny to fall in love with. The actor who plays Paul is popular and he will probably stay on contract but I don't see the show building to a Sonny & Paul romance the way it did with Sonny & Will.

 

I could wrong, but we'll see what happens. In the meantime NBC did renew the show for ten more months. Previously Days was set to run until September 2017, now the network's deal with Sony has been extended to next July. This means Carlivati has exactly one year to bring the ratings up or it will likely (and finally) be cancelled.

 

Going back to the thread topic, the actor who plays Paul is gay in real life. But the actor who plays Sonny is not, and quite frankly I don't find him all too convincing. The dialogue is often trite and the couple is stagnating. They are definitely a token couple at this point, with occasional hugging, a New Year's kiss and that's about it. They have been used more as sounding boards in the straight characters' stories than in their own romance. It will probably stay this way until the new material starts airing in mid-summer.

 

In short Days' gay couple is currently quite boring. By comparison, Aaron & Robert on Emmerdale are much more interesting and central to their show's storylines. They drive the main plots as much as the straight couples. And they have different types of interaction with the other core characters, and within their own story, there are multiple issues that are being explored.


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#57 LawrenceA

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 01:01 PM

This kind of disrespect for two legacy gay characters, who had made television history, turned me off the show.

 

I have not watched it again.

 

All of the actors who were involved in the gay storyline were certainly more than competent in rendering the complexities of a gay man's life - whether they were gay or not.

 

But the new writing team obviously was terrified of continuing this ground-breaking daytime gay storyline.

 

Shame on them!

 

I know TopBilled probably knows more about this than I do, but I have a family member who watches Days and I recall her telling me that the reason for Will and Sonny's storylines disappearing was that the new head writer was very religious and disapproved of any homosexuality. Days has been a real merry-go-round of head writers over the past few years, and every time a new one comes in, everything gets upended.


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#58 Jlewis

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 12:59 PM

How long ago was this storyline (without me having to check)?


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#59 rayban

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 12:03 PM

For the longest time, on the American soap, "Days Of Our Lives", there was a very enjoyable storyline that involved two gay characters, who fell in love, Will Horton and Sonny Kiriakis.

 

In fact, Will Horton and Sonny Kiriakis made television history when they decided to get married.

 

It was the first male-male wedding ceremony in television history.

 

It lasted four and a half days - in screen time.

 

Will Horton was played by Guy Wilson and Sonny Kiriakis was played by Freddie Smith.

 

Both of these actors did not seem particularly "gay", but they did play very well together on the soap.

 

Later, a former boyfriend of Sonny was brought into the storyline and turned Will and Sonny's relationship into a triangle - Paul Norita, a closeted baseball player.

 

Paul Norita was played by Christopher Sean.

 

Again, Christopher Sean did not seem particularly "gay", but he did give a excellent performance as a gay man.

 

Paul Norita was also pursued by a sexually-liberated young man who worked at the hotel where Paul Norita was staying.

 

This actor gave an extremely convincing performance.

 

When he was on-camera, the TV screen "blazed".

 

Was this actor "gay"?  I don't know.  Was he only "acting"?  I don't know.

 

For some strange reason, when a new team of writers was brought onto the show, they decided to "kill off" the character of Will Horton.

 

He became a victim of the necktie killer, who was terrorizing the town of Salem.

 

This kind of disrespect for two legacy gay characters, who had made television history, turned me off the show.

 

I have not watched it again.

 

All of the actors who were involved in the gay storyline were certainly more than competent in rendering the complexities of a gay man's life - whether they were gay or not.

 

But the new writing team obviously was terrified of continuing this ground-breaking daytime gay storyline.

 

Shame on them!

 

 


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#60 TopBilled

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 10:59 AM

Oh Topbilled, you are forcing to go through YouTube to see what you are discussing here. 

 

Since we may continue discussing Aaron & Robert on Emmerdale (as well as the acting of the two gents who play them), I thought it might be helpful to mention how to find the episodes.

 

I use Dailymotion. If you register with an email address, it's fairly easy. A user named DocumentaryTV uploads the British serials each weekday. Emmerdale actually produces six half-hour episodes per week-- on one of the weekdays, can't remember which one, they have a two-parter. The user DocumentaryTV uploads the best quality HD versions without commercials. Britain is ahead of North America in terms of time zones, and I find the uploads are usually available by 5 p.m. Arizona time. They are taken down when the newest episodes are uploaded.


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