ONTD Political

Hollywood star Richard Chamberlain urges leading men not to come out

9:44 pm - 12/27/2010
 Richard Chamberlain, who shot to fame as ‘Dr Kildare’ and later starred in several US TV hits including ‘The Thorn Birds’ and ‘Shogun’ and currently playing an HIV-positive gay man in the drama ‘Brother & Sisters’ had warned fellow gay actors not to come out unless they want it to harm their careers.

There had been rumours of 76-year-old Chamberlain’s homosexuality for years in Hollywood, but the actor said he chose not to speak out about his sexuality out of fear of losing leading man roles. He came out at the age of 69.

The actor told The Advocate: “There’s still a tremendous amount of homophobia in our culture. It’s regrettable, it’s stupid, it’s heartless, and it’s immoral, but there it is.

“For an actor to be working is a kind of miracle, because most actors aren’t, so it’s just silly for a working actor to say, ‘Oh, I don’t care if anybody knows I’m gay’ — especially if you’re a leading man. Personally, I wouldn’t advise a gay leading man–type actor to come out.”


Asked when an actor could come out, Chamberlain said: “I have no idea. Despite all the wonderful advances that have been made, it’s still dangerous for an actor to talk about that in our extremely misguided culture. Look at what happened in California with Proposition 8. Please, don’t pretend that we’re suddenly all wonderfully, blissfully accepted.”

Gay actor Rupert Everett has hit out against discrimination in Hollywood before. In 2006, he said: “Without doubt gays are discriminated against in show business. The straight one gets to walk down a red carpet with a beautiful girl and everything works out and the gay one has to back-pedal and do independent movies. Yet everything Hugh Grant does, I could be in.”

British star and Stonewall co-founder Ian McKellen also spoke out against discrimination in Hollywood. In 2006, he told an audience at the Berlin Film Festival: “The film industry is very old fashioned in California. It is very, very, very difficult for an American actor who wants a film career to be open about his sexuality. And even more difficult for a woman if she’s lesbian. It’s very distressing to me that that should be the case.”

Last year, ‘The Office’ star Martin Freeman said :”The funny thing about the acting business is that there are more poofs in it than you can have hot dinners thrown at you. But no one is out. It’s not so bad here [the UK], but in Hollywood …Why don’t they just admit it? In this so-called liberal industry, no one has the guts to come out because of the box office, but someone has to be first in the firing line.”

Source: Pink News

While what he's saying is true, I can't help but think it's the coward's way out - if no-one challenges the status quo for fear of ruining their career, nothing will ever change. Also, side-eyeing Martin Freeman... that is not your word, Dentarthurdent. You do not get to use it.
alierakieron 27th-Dec-2010 09:49 pm (UTC)
On one hand, you're right to an extent. On the other hand... it's a flooded market. It's BEYOND a flooded market. And no one is indispensible.
grimmerlove 27th-Dec-2010 09:54 pm (UTC)
I read that as Morgan Freeman. No wonder it didn't make any sense.
alierakieron 27th-Dec-2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
DUde, I did t he same thing, and couldn't picture Morgan Freeman saying "Poof".
juliet316 27th-Dec-2010 09:56 pm (UTC)
Everything Chamberlain and the others say is true, and I doubt that's going to change anytime soon with the current old - school power structure in hollywood. Not unless a really major name up and decides to come out of the closet. Actors like Neil Patrick Harris seem to be the exception rather than the norm.
txvoodoo 27th-Dec-2010 10:06 pm (UTC)
In some ways, I feel like this is Chamberlain making excuses for why his career didn't bloom post "The Thornbirds" and really the reason for that is multi-part: he was starting to age,and he had been a pretty boy actor, and also, he really isn't that *great* an actor.
rauduskoivu 27th-Dec-2010 10:06 pm (UTC)
I don't know if it's fair to urge queer actors to deliberately stay in the closet. If no one keeps coming out now, then no one will. But that said, I strongly agree with many of the sentiments that the greats like Chamberlain and Everett and Sir Ian have expressed here; it's a very, very risky career maneuver, and if any actors would prefer to keep what they've earned by remaining in the closet, I can't blame them, as long as they don't mask all of this with outright homophobia. There are several major actors whose sexuality I seriously wonder about, and there's a part of me that would love it to pieces if they did come out. (Not just because I'd then have a chance~ with some of them, either.) But it would break my heart if they came out and got pushed off the track they'd set themselves on. It's such a fucking shitty situation all around.

I also wonder if I'll ever live to see the day that there's a major trans performer. And not one who began as a drag star; I mean like if the equivalent of Angelina Jolie came out as trans. I think that's going to take a very, very long time.

Edit: Oh yeah lolwhat Martin Freeman, you did not have to phrase it that way, jfc.

Edited at 2010-12-27 10:09 pm (UTC)
paulnolan 27th-Dec-2010 10:09 pm (UTC)
Does Alexis Arquette count? She's not exactly major, and she was a drag queen before she came out as trans, but she's been in some pretty big movies (Pulp Fiction, for example).
sizequeen 27th-Dec-2010 10:13 pm (UTC)
I think the society has to change more to allow these famous actors the freedom to be out. I don't blame them for maintaining their privacy. Hollywood is a business, and leading actors are selling themselves. They have to be a product that the society wants to see.

The big problem is that leading man/woman thing. Stars bring their own personas to their characters (see Kate Hepburn), and many straight people (and sometimes gay people too) see gayness as abnormal. It's not a character aspect that they can see as normal and it shades their perception of the actor's performance.

I see some celebs, Like Matt Boner, Zach Quinto, and Anderson Cooper are not closeted (by closted I mean pretending to date women), but they do not discuss their love lives period.

ZQ is a successful character actor, Matt Boner's SO is a big time Hollywood agent and he's about to be launched into a leading man film career, and Cooper has a network talk show.

The one to watch is Boner. He can act, he's beautiful, is known for playing romantic, action-y heterosexual leads. If he becomes a big success in his new sci-fi movie, he'll probably be outed. Then we'll see if beauty and talent will trump anti-gay bigotry. Will people be able to see him as just an actor or as a gay actor? Straight and sexually non-identified actors get to do whatever they want; gay actors get character roles in mainstream films and lead roles in the gay ghetto.

evewithanapple 27th-Dec-2010 10:19 pm (UTC)
Matt Boner

Er, I think you mean Bomer.
porcelain72 27th-Dec-2010 10:46 pm (UTC)
He's right. Let's face it, Neil Patrick Harris was never a "leading man" type before coming out. Granted, I've only watched maybe one or two episodes, but it seems that his character on How I Met Your Mother is kind of a caricature of the swinging bachelor. Now Hollywood gets to show how hip it is by warmly embracing him and letting him host awards programs and all. He's sort of become the "pet gay," if you will. I don't think that opens the door for other already established actors to come out. I'd be willing to bet that even actors who have been rumored to be gay for a while, like John Travolta and James Franco, if they were to say "Well, okay, you got me, I'm gay," the action hero and hetero romantic roles would dry up almost immediately.
rauduskoivu 27th-Dec-2010 11:16 pm (UTC)
OT: icon love. @_@ Anyway, all of this; NPH is a reasonably big deal but he's the exception that proves the rule. And he's also not as big a deal as some people seem to think.
terribilita 27th-Dec-2010 11:56 pm (UTC)
I actually googled Martin Freeman, thinking, "omg he's gay?!" Yeah, I don't know what the hell he was thinking speaking out about this in the way he did.
goblinthebamf 28th-Dec-2010 12:10 am (UTC)
same here... I'm scratching my head wondering why that quote is in there, it's so random... "hey, I wonder what this b-list straight married actor from Britain thinks about closeted LGBT folk in Hollywood"... and, also, "poof" makes me :-S
bethan_b_bad 28th-Dec-2010 12:22 am (UTC)
Also, side-eyeing Martin Freeman... that is not your word, Dentarthurdent. You do not get to use it.

Miiiight not be entirely true, if the rumours I heard about him while he was in Cardiff for Sherlock are true. Although I also side-eyed at that word, ngl.
paulnolan 28th-Dec-2010 12:26 am (UTC)
If he is gay he's very much closeted (wife, 2 kids), so I don't think he gets slur privileges...
tiddlywinks103 28th-Dec-2010 12:26 am (UTC)
True, yet that puts the burden of full social change on the gay person, in a homophobic society, and puts no imperative on us, as society, to create an environment where someone's sexuality is a moot moral point, anyway.

I'm not going rag on someone for trying to protect themselves and refusing to open themselves up to scorn and dehumanization. It's great when certain people of a minority group do it, but I won't judge those that won't.
paulnolan 28th-Dec-2010 12:29 am (UTC)
True. But conversely, if queer people make no effort to disrupt the status quo society isn't going to change on its own - there has to be effort from both sides.
anjak_j 28th-Dec-2010 12:35 am (UTC)
It is not for anyone to tell others to stay in the closet - even if Chamberlain's reasoning for doing so is sound. The sentiments made here about Hollywood here are pretty accurate.

It is a shame that Martin Freeman had to ruin his very valid point by using a word he has no right to use.
squee4242 28th-Dec-2010 02:53 am (UTC)
I always took it to be British slang, but interestingly the pronunciation audio is Australian: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/pooftah
angelofdeath275 28th-Dec-2010 01:50 am (UTC)
Sounds like a bunch of concern trolling. While what he says is true, how can one expect change to happen?
juliet316 28th-Dec-2010 06:15 am (UTC)
Exactly. Look at all the 'LOL! It's a publicity stunt' comments that came up when Anna Paquin announced in that commercial that she was bisexual. There's also Anne Heche who saw her career as a leading lady more or less go up in smoke when she dated Ellen Degeneres. Change takes time, but with very few exceptions, coming out of the closet is still a huge career death sentence in Hollywood.
romp 28th-Dec-2010 02:56 am (UTC)
These older actors seem to know what they're talking about--I believe them. But I also want to see this change.

Perhaps all these actors who are almost-out (if the rumours are true) will affect things for the better. Jodie Foster was a beloved actor for years before she came out. It seems like that should work as in real life with people having to reconcile "gay" with the normal person they know.

It can only help to have Anderson Cooper in living rooms all over the country and Matt Bomer on the TV. Then, when the bigots least expect it...
juliet316 28th-Dec-2010 06:12 am (UTC)
*headtilt* When did Jodie Foster come out? One would think a name like her the paparazzi TV media would have been all over it and nary a peep from them.
magus_69 28th-Dec-2010 08:42 am (UTC)
Mr. Freeman, unless you are somehow queer, you do not get to use that word.
crossfire 28th-Dec-2010 04:49 pm (UTC)
I've been on both sides of that equation: closeted and out. So on the one hand I get hiding who you are because of fear of retribution, scorn, etc. but on the other hand I recognize that we need to be publicly visible to effect change. On the gripping hand not everyone can handle that kind of public visibility.

Also, Martin Freeman? You look like a not-cute John Simm and need to be quiet now.
dustbunny105 28th-Dec-2010 05:48 pm (UTC)
He came out at the age of 69.

I'm sorry, I lol'd.

That aside, yeah, side-eyeing this. No doubt that it's a legitimate concern, but it really isn't his call to make. I don't support dragging people kicking and screaming from the closet, but I don't think it's right to barricade the door either. People should be encouraged to make the choice that's right for them. If that's staying in the closet, okay, but if it isn't, that's okay too.

And how is Martin Freeman remotely relevant? Because he happened to say something about gay actors? o__e Zip it up, dude.
sparkindarkness 29th-Dec-2010 01:36 pm (UTC)
Sadly what he says is true. And while it's nice and wonderful when someone does risk their career by coming out - and certainly more people will have to to change it - I also think it's a lot to ask of someone and a big risk for them to take.

So I'm going to pump for changing society so that people can come out without facing these repercussions. Sadly that will take a long time yet

And Martin Freeman - that word does not belong in your mouth. Seriously, no

Edited at 2010-12-29 01:38 pm (UTC)
la_petite_singe 29th-Dec-2010 06:00 pm (UTC)
OK, just saying: "wouldn't advise" isn't the same as "urging not to come out." He's just saying he wouldn't encourage it because he understands the business. He probably has a point, but this problem is never going to be solved if we just accept that Hollywood is full of bigoted assholes; someone's gotta do it.
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