Sign in to follow this  
TopBilled

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

77 posts in this topic

I want to go back to Emmerdale for a moment. In addition to our frontburner supercouple Aaron & Robert, there are actually two other gay storylines occurring. As I've said before, there are six episodes produced weekly so with all that airtime they can feature a lot of characters and there are five out gay male characters in frontburner stories at the moment (three besides Aaron & Robert). 

 

In one of these other stories, which I think is very well-written and performed, we have a wealthy man who is in his late 50s. He's a widow whose late wife was very domineering/controlling and an old friend of his from their younger days has come back into his life. It has been revealed he and his buddy had romantic feelings years ago but the wife stood in the way. Now that she's deceased, they are free to explore their feelings. But the widowed man has two grown daughters who are just as domineering and calculating as the late wife. So they are doing everything they can to keep their father from being happy with the man he truly loves. 

 

In the third gay story on Emmerdale we have a young guy who is about 19 or 20 and in college. He's become obsessed with another guy his own age who is deeply in the closet and can't reciprocate the same feelings. Since he can't be with the guy he wants, his older brother has been taking him out to a local pub to try and help him find someone else.

 

The level of authenticity varies in all three storylines. I do think the five actors in these roles are doing the best job possible. The writing is uniformly excellent. In the story with the two older men, the dialogue is a little more wry and the performances seem wiser. In yesterday's episode one of the older guys, when commenting on his partner's scheming daughters, complained that they're turning him into the type of bitter old queen he never wanted to become! 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not sure I agree. In a comedy, we can go a bit broader and stretch our suspension of disbelief. And it could be argued that henpecked husband roles are fairly asexual anyway-- with very little affection, intimacy or real romance occurring. 

 

Some actors like Tony Curtis were a lot more fluid and actively bisexual, which informs their persona. But unless they are playing bisexual characters then on some level they are not being authentic either.

 

I don't know Tony Curtis' full biography. Was he bisexual with intimate relations with both genders? That wasn't the vibe I got in an interview of his. In any case, I was just getting you to rethink the whole romance-with-Marilyn Monroe situation.

 

Oh... and sorry if I got off topic of Emmerdale. Ha ha!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know Tony Curtis' full biography. Was he bisexual with intimate relations with both genders? That wasn't the vibe I got in an interview of his. In any case, I was just getting you to rethink the whole romance-with-Marilyn Monroe situation.

 

I think Tony was coy about his sexuality in mid-life, but in his later years he seemed to deny the gayer side of himself. People evolve. 

 

The Monroe example you provided doesn't quite work for me because things tend to be very exaggerated in comedies, especially Billy Wilder farces. Often in Wilder's films these are not authentic characters to begin with, so it's not as easy to connect them with authentic representations of same-sex relations. In Wilder's universe there is a lack of logic and the audience just goes along with it, and that includes any spoofing of gender or sexuality. But in a more serious minded story, none of this would be considered real or authentic.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmmm... perhaps. Wilder was quite the character himself though. One reason that comedy is a masterpiece is because it does explore emotions and society norms in a more complex way than first meets the eye. For example, you have the dialogue where Curtis asks Lemmon why a guy would marry a guy and Lemmon's response is "security". In one joke, Wilder mocks the "institution" of marriage twofold:

1.) too often marriage is based more on finance than romance... and this is very much the tradition going back to Old Testament times

2.) marriage is defined too much on a structure. While Lemmon is willing to experiment, Curtis has to give him a lecture that "it just isn't done". (Joe E. Brown's Osgood has no problem with anything they decide to do because "nobody's perfect".)

 

I like Wilder's films. They are wild, but also raise very important questions.

 

 

In one of these other stories, which I think is very well-written and performed, we have a wealthy man who is in his late 50s. He's a widow whose late wife was very domineering/controlling and an old friend of his from their younger days has come back into his life. It has been revealed he and his buddy had romantic feelings years ago but the wife stood in the way. Now that she's deceased, they are free to explore their feelings. But the widowed man has two grown daughters who are just as domineering and calculating as the late wife. So they are doing everything they can to keep their father from being happy with the man he truly loves.

 

You know how I exhaust you by OVER analyzing everything and everyone, including characters you create in your own stories. I never believe anybody is a set cardboard character. I always want to get "into" their heads.

 

Heck, I have even analyzed the entire $%#@ing Republican Party! I always chuckle over how Ted Cruz always changes the subject when asked if he has any "issues" with gays. Every time he hears the word "gay", he asks why Liberals are so obsessed with sex. Why? Because being "gay" means you have a strong libido. Apparently he thinks gays are incapable of doing anything else like... I dunno... listen to show tunes. Since he struggles so much showing intimacy with his own wife (and I am just talking about hugging her in public), you know he has a lot of issues with intimacy in general. Granted, he does have two daughters so he did what he had to do physically in order to get them even if he didn't enjoyed it.

 

With Mike Pence, he genuinely believes all "normal" people are heterosexual and good therapy and proper prayer can "fix" homosexuality. It doesn't matter what experts tell him. He stubbornly believes a man or woman's homosexuality can be fixed just like a leaky faucet. I don't think he necessarily believes they are cursed by God like Pat Robertson (who is obsessed with the Sodom and Gomorrah story even though he hasn't read it in decades and is basing every sermon on "memory"). Yet he doesn't understand why gays should feel discriminated against based on "religious freedom" because they can easily change and conform, unlike a black person who can't change their skin tone.

 

Which brings me to The Daughters. What is THEIR problem exactly? Why do they not want Daddy to be happy? Obviously they are uncomfortable in their own perception of sexuality and intimacy. This is something I have picked up with people who say their religious faith is why they are intolerant of gays. If Leviticus is as important as they say it is, they wouldn't be eating out at Red Lobster. Are The Daughters upset that Daddy is not fitting in with the status quo as they see it? Nazi Germany was all about the status quo under Hitler. If they resemble Mommy, who is deceased, you have to wonder what HER issues were. Was she aggressive with her husband because she feared unloved herself?

 

I am so sorry. This has nothing to do with what you want to discuss. Ha ha! Yet I do believe that a good on-going soap opera on TV has an advantage over a theatrical 90 minute movie in that characters can be explored more fully over time.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Which brings me to The Daughters. What is THEIR problem exactly? Why do they not want Daddy to be happy? Obviously they are uncomfortable in their own perception of sexuality and intimacy. 

 

screen-shot-2017-03-09-at-9-39-38-am.png

 

The daughters (Chrissie and Rebecca) do not want their father (Lawrence) to be happy with his partner (Ronnie) for a variety of reasons. The oldest one, Chrissie, is the manipulator and Rebecca follows her lead. In yesterday's episode, Ronnie decided to leave the house for awhile because he couldn't take the drama anymore with Lawrence and the daughters. Lawrence tried to convince him to stay and apologized for Chrissie's behavior, saying she's bitter and jealous. That she's afraid all Lawrence's affection will go to Ronnie and none to her or Rebecca. And also there was mention that Chrissie wants their inheritance protected, because Lawrence is quite wealthy, and she doesn't want Ronnie to get anything in case their father dies. So it's more than just her acceptance of his sexuality. In a way, it's kind of like a soap opera equivalent of King Lear with the ungrateful daughters, only in this variation, Lear is gay and has a partner.

 

screen-shot-2017-03-09-at-9-40-55-am1.pn

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On "Days Of Our Lives", all of the four actors who were involved in the gay storyline, gave very competent performances.

 

And, while I didn't believe that any of them was actually gay, that fact did not distract from their "authenticity".

 

Even in their "intimate moments", they were convincing.

 

And, in an on-going soap opera, since there is so much more time to explore these relationships than in the average film treatment, I did feel that these particular actors were always up to the challenge.

 

Would actors that seemed genuinely gay to me have been more persuasive?

 

No, in this case, on "Days Of Our Lives", I do not think so.

 

Sometimes, mere talent can win out.

 

And, seriously, is it that hard to portray gay men who are attracted to other gay men?

 

Is there that much difference between heterosexual attraction and homosexual attraction?

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think Tony was coy about his sexuality in mid-life, but in his later years he seemed to deny the gayer side of himself. People evolve. 

 

The Monroe example you provided doesn't quite work for me because things tend to be very exaggerated in comedies, especially Billy Wilder farces. Often in Wilder's films these are not authentic characters to begin with, so it's not as easy to connect them with authentic representations of same-sex relations. In Wilder's universe there is a lack of logic and the audience just goes along with it, and that includes any spoofing of gender or sexuality. But in a more serious minded story, none of this would be considered real or authentic.

Curtis was to cute in his youth not to have gay guys hit on him - later on he might have changed his tune but his persona and looks seem to suggest at least a bi sexual flight or two

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On "Days Of Our Lives", all of the four actors who were involved in the gay storyline, gave very competent performances.

 

And, while I didn't believe that any of them was actually gay, that fact did not distract from their "authenticity".

 

Even in their "intimate moments", they were convincing.

 

And, in an on-going soap opera, since there is so much more time to explore these relationships than in the average film treatment, I did feel that these particular actors were always up to the challenge.

 

Would actors that seemed genuinely gay to me have been more persuasive?

 

No, in this case, on "Days Of Our Lives", I do not think so.

 

Sometimes, mere talent can win out.

 

And, seriously, is it that hard to portray gay men who are attracted to other gay men?

 

Is there that much difference between heterosexual attraction and homosexual attraction?

Love in love of course- but we are talking about acting- this goes back not just to the talent of the actor but how he feels about his sexuality these days actors like  Russell Tovey ( who is gay) can be convincing in both gay and straight roles

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is something I have picked up with people who say their religious faith is why they are intolerant of gays. If Leviticus is as important as they say it is, they wouldn't be eating out at Red Lobster.

 

That is the funniest thing I've read on these boards. ^^^^

 

It's similar to my reaction when I'm told someone's teen is pregnant and they reject termination because of their religious faith. But how did they follow their religious faith when they had premarital sex?

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is something I have picked up with people who say their religious faith is why they are intolerant of gays. If Leviticus is as important as they say it is, they wouldn't be eating out at Red Lobster.

 

That is the funniest thing I've read on these boards. ^^^^

 

It's similar to my reaction when I'm told someone's teen is pregnant and they reject termination because of their religious faith. But how did they follow their religious faith when they had premarital sex?

 

I do go overboard on my posts at times. Sorry. Need to control myself. TopBilled is probably pounding the ol' head against the wall over some of them.

 

Actually there are passages in the Old Testament that support the termination of pregnancy simply because the ancient writers didn't view a fetus as a "life" like so many today. Therefore Mike Pence was talking nonsense during the VP debate back in October. To be fair, the Earth is also flat with angels residing in all four corners and was created in seven days, so I guess everybody is entitled to pick and choose what they want to agree with in ancient scripture.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do go overboard on my posts at times. Sorry. Need to control myself. TopBilled is probably pounding the ol' head against the wall over some of them.

 

Actually there are passages in the Old Testament that support the termination of pregnancy simply because the ancient writers didn't view a fetus as a "life" like so many today. Therefore Mike Pence was talking nonsense during the VP debate back in October. To be fair, the Earth is also flat with angels residing in all four corners and was created in seven days, so I guess everybody is entitled to pick and choose what they want to agree with in ancient scripture.

The last time I checked we were living in the 21st century not the 1 B.C.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The last time I checked we were living in the 21st century not the 1 B.C.

 

Even though some got stoned to death back then, many others got to do what they wanted without any politicians getting involved. All you need to do is visit Pompeii.

 

Which reminds me... I still haven't seen ALEXANDER with Colin Farrell. That one was set earlier though.

 

Oh... by the way, STAIRCASE is airing tonight. Maybe I should satisfy my curiosity.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

It's similar to my reaction when I'm told someone's teen is pregnant and they reject termination because of their religious faith. But how did they follow their religious faith when they had premarital sex?

 

Hmm...never thought about it that way.

 

Anyway, I'm leaving this thread. I'm a straight female (not homophobic), so I shouldn't be getting involved in the thread's topic. I don't know what it's like to be homosexual.

 

(Besides, ever since I subscribed to this thread, my email provider has been sending all the TCM notifications directly into my spam folder. Anyone else have this problem? If I check on this thread again, it'll be without the notifications.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmm...never thought about it that way.

 

Anyway, I'm leaving this thread. I'm a straight female (not homophobic), so I shouldn't be getting involved in the thread's topic. I don't know what it's like to be homosexual.

 

(Besides, ever since I subscribed to this thread, my email provider has been sending all the TCM notifications directly into my spam folder. Anyone else have this problem? If I check on this thread again, it'll be without the notifications.)

 

Just un-follow a thread so you don't get bombarded with emails.

 

Not everybody posting here is gay. Granted, you really don't know what any of us do in our sex lives. Some of us may not do much of anything either way, seeing less "action" than the Vatican. Don't get shy all of the sudden. You can reply as you would a discussion of characters belonging to a different race or religion than you. No, you may not know what it is like to be in one's shoes, but you are just as capable of imagining it just like Scout Finch with Boo Radley.

 

In any case, the stars being discussed didn't identify as gay either and most were not homophobic. Otherwise they wouldn't be taking on the roles discussed.

 

Which brings me to STAIRCASE, which I did watch last night. That cast was very homophobic, but we must realize that this was filmed pre-Stonewall and everything that followed. I think director Stanley Donen's intentions were admirable, since he liked the original play's sympathetic characters and likely wanted another WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? featuring an over-the-hill married (in a sense) couple who were acidic with each other but still depended on each other. (Cue ending with one trying to go to his court trial alone without the other and suddenly can't... just as he couldn't live without Eliza Doolittle because "I've grown accustomed to his face".) Yet the Zanucks at 20th Century Fox got neurotic on how the public would react and a major publicity campaign emphasized how much Rex Harrison and Richard Burton were heterosexual in real life. (Not that it was necessary with one's marriage with Liz being so internationally known and SHE had to be on the Paris sets when not shooting THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN.) This ultimately turned off a great many people of all sorts of orientations. Also there wasn't any more of a connection between these two stars here than there was when they played Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony in CLEOPATRA.

 

Had they trimmed a few lines, this would have merely been a sixties knock-off of a Laurel & Hardy comedy... if hardly their best effort since there wasn't all that much humor in it. Burton seemed to be enjoying himself, spending the entire time cleaning bathrooms, fixing dinner and taking care of bed-ridden mommy (whom we learn isn't as "out of it" as we think and is quite happy her son found love). The mirror in her room showcases activities outside as reality versus how the characters perceive themselves.

 

(Speaking of their two mothers, I like the relationship between Burton and bed-ridden Cathleen Nesbitt, more famous for her bit role in AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER, since he genuinely cares about her and even helps make her beautiful with make-up. In contrast, Harrison's mom is in the nursing home and goes on the war-path despite NOT being bed-ridden. This reflects how Harrison behaves in his relationship with Burton.)

 

Burton also had the best line and most memorable moment in the movie. While waiting out a springtime storm in a park building, he sees two teenagers getting naked and comments to Harrison "look... they are making love!" This suggests that the guys weren't making love all that much as they used to. Obviously they would be less successful getting away with it in a public park than the heterosexual pair. Curiously they was hypercritical of the kissing heterosexual pair early in the movie outside their barber shop.

 

Rex Harrison reminded me of how Ted Cruz might have played this part had he decided to take up acting (based on how often he repeated lines from THE PRINCESS BRIDE on his campaign trail). Even though he was very aloof with females in other sixties films like MY FAIR LADY and DR. DOOLITTLE, he views Burton as another unnecessary "woman". He also plays this curious stereotype of gay men being fussy about his appearance with more beauty products than Joan Crawford ever had in her bathroom and clipping his toenails in bed.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Staircase" directed by Stanley Donen and starring Rex Harrison and Richard Burton - the material is ugly, the direction is ugly, the performances are ugly - in its tiniest details, like Rex Harrison's mom eating prunes, the film is ugly - how could Richard Zanuck of 20th Century Fox think that this film would be a hit film - wasn't he watching the dailies - a deep, deep stain on everybody's career.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Staircase" directed by Stanley Donen and starring Rex Harrison and Richard Burton - the material is ugly, the direction is ugly, the performances are ugly - in its tiniest details, like Rex Harrison's mom eating prunes, the film is ugly - how could Richard Zanuck of 20th Century Fox think that this film would be a hit film - wasn't he watching the dailies - a deep, deep stain on everybody's career.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In 1968, Stanley Donen gave us "Two For The Road" and "Bedazzled" - two films which were dominated by their creators, Frederic Raphael and Peter Cook/Dudley Moore, respectively - in 1969, he gives us "Staircase, which is dominated by the original play by Charles Dyer.

 

Stanley Donen could be a first-rate collaborator. 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Later that year, in the autumn, Richard Zanuck put Myra Breckinridge into production. 20th Century Fox had literally... gone to lunch. That is why they were deeper in the red by early 1970 more than any other studio. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, M*A*S*H and Patton each made a profit that got lost in a sea of red ink.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Later that year, in the autumn, Richard Zanuck put Myra Breckinridge into production. 20th Century Fox had literally... gone to lunch. That is why they were deeper in the red by early 1970 more than any other studio. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, M*A*S*H and Patton each made a profit that got lost in a sea of red ink.

But "Myra" is a such a bizarre movie a true disaster in every possible way even the scene in which Myra rapes the straight guy doesn't work - but in Vidal's novel the scene is disturbingly erotic

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Staircase" directed by Stanley Donen and starring Rex Harrison and Richard Burton - the material is ugly, the direction is ugly, the performances are ugly - in its tiniest details, like Rex Harrison's mom eating prunes, the film is ugly - how could Richard Zanuck of 20th Century Fox think that this film would be a hit film - wasn't he watching the dailies - a deep, deep stain on everybody's career.

I've tried watching this movie at it really doesn't work- Burton and Harrison have zero chemistry.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bringing these comments from the other thread...

 

 

Christopher Reeve was EXTREMELY PERSUASIVE as a young gay man in "Deathtrap".

 

Quite obviously, he had no trouble with his scenes.

 

Christopher Reeve on playing gay:

 

"I think the problem is with other people. I've been used to straights playing gays and vice versa all my life so it seems pretty ordinary to me. People aren't freaked out by homosexual characters on the stage or the screen if they emerge as compelling, real people that the audience can identify with on other levels."

 

 

"Brokeback Moutain"did not open the flood gates to studio made gay theme films- they are still trying to get " A Different Runner" produced.  I think liberal Hollywood is more comfortable with backing projects that deal with race relations- look at "Moonlight" it was not only after the film got it's well deserve Oscar for best picture that gay angle was mentioned.

 

Although his wikipedia bio doesn't specify that he is dating a woman, Andre Holland is insinuating he is heterosexual in this interview. Some of his comments do remind me a little of Christopher Reeve mentioned above.

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've tried watching this movie at it really doesn't work- Burton and Harrison have zero chemistry.

 

Not only that, but Harrison is nitpicky about Burton's body when he stands up in his tub. At least when Julie Christie comments on Donald Sutherland gaining some pounds in their Don't Look Now bathroom scene, we get plenty of action in the bedroom.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not only that, but Harrison is nitpicky about Burton's body when he stands up in his tub. At least when Julie Christie comments on Donald Sutherland gaining some pounds in their Don't Look Now bathroom scene, we get plenty of action in the bedroom.

Yeah but Christie and Sutherland had chemistry in and out of he bedroom.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Now, now... we have been reminded that it was all just clever editing and there were no love-children as a result.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Now, now... we have been reminded that it was all just clever editing and there were no love-children as a result.

If you are referring to the Christie - Sutherland love scene from "Don't Look Now" that is still hot

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us