“People Of All Different Experiences Should Be Playing More Roles”

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in 'Brokeback Mountain'
Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in ‘Brokeback Mountain’ (image via Focus Features)

Jake Gyllenhaal recently shared his thoughts on taking on the role of a gay cowboy in the acclaimed 2005 film Brokeback Mountain even though there was still a “stigma” attached to playing queer roles in mainstream movies.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Gyllenhaal was asked if there would be a “different reaction” today to the idea of himself and Heath Ledger being cast in the now-iconic roles.

“I don’t know. Maybe?” Gyllenhaal responded. “Part of the medicine of storytelling is that we were two straight guys playing these parts.”

“There was a stigma about playing a part like that, you know, why would you do that?” he continued. “And I think it was very important to both of us to break that stigma.”

Gyllenhaal also wondered if the financial and artistic success of the film (8 Oscar nominations including nods for both Ledger and Gyllenhaal) might have helped the industry move past the stigma.

“I think that has led the way towards people saying, you know, people of all different experiences should be playing more roles, that it shouldn’t be limited to a small group of people,” added the 40-year-old actor. “And I believe that.”

At the time, his Brokeback performance predictably led to questions of whether he was possibly gay/bisexual. In December 2005, Gyllenhaal waved those queries aside.

“You know, it’s flattering when there’s a rumor that says I’m bisexual,” said Gyllenhaal. “It means I can play more kinds of roles.”

“I’m open to whatever people want to call me. I’ve never really been attracted to men sexually, but I don’t think I would be afraid of it if it happened.”

Jake Gyllenhaal (image via Depositphotos)
Jake Gyllenhaal (image via Depositphotos)

Since that time, there has been much discussion about the casting of straight actors in gay roles and vice versa.

In January, Russell T. Davies said in an interview regarding his acclaimed queer-themed UK TV series It’s A Sin, that he feels strongly that gay actors should play gay roles.

“They are not there to ‘act gay’ because ‘acting gay’ is a bunch of codes for a performance,” said Davies. “It’s about authenticity, the taste of 2020.”

But one of the stars of It’s A Sin, out actor Neil Patrick Harris, disagreed saying straight actors should get the chance to ‘play gay’ as long as it’s done in a respectful way.

Ewan McGregor, who identifies as straight, recently scored an Emmy Award for playing out fashion designer Halston in the Netflix bio-series “Halston.”

More recently, Instinct reported on conversations regarding Taron Egerton (Rocketman) being cast in the role of a gay man in the upcoming West End revival of the provocative play, C*ck. Jonathan Bailey (Bridgerton), an out gay actor, has been announced as his co-star.

(source: Insider)

8 thoughts on ““People Of All Different Experiences Should Be Playing More Roles””

  1. Im really tired of the excuse “it’s called acting.” First that excuse has been mostly applied to straight white people in playing roles not created for them *cough Scarlett Johansson* and actors gay men lust after. Second not all gay people talk, think, or have the same interest and backgrounds. So to say ‘it’s not acting’ if a gay actor plays gay or gay actors are too femme to play straight is ignorant. Where was that statement when straight people played straight/ gay roles? I believe anyone can play any roles not pertaining to their sexuality. This is more about hiring more LGBTQ actors in leading roles especially roles created for them to build up their resume. There’s still a stigma that in order to get a queer project made studios need to hire a big name actors. Most of them are straight so gay actors don’t even have the credentials to get on the suggestion list. Hiring straight actors in gay roles gets the project made but most importantly they will appeal to young girls & gay men, draw in box office money, and win/ get nominated for awards. So it’s actually not about hiring the most talented; that’s like the 5th criteria. Sad that many queer creators fall into this troupe so they can get their movie/ show made and get their name out in Hollywood instead of hiring queer actors. If studios are hiring poc creators and they are putting in effort to write and hire people in their community, the same spotlight needs to be put on hiring queer actors.

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  2. Since “Brokeback” won many Oscars it showed the public that two str8 actors can play gay characters, there should be no discussion about who can play who. One of my favorite movies. Yes, it makes me tear up every time I watch it!

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  3. If we chose to have gay actors play gay and strait play strait. It isn’t much of acting, period. I want the best actor to play lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, and questioning roles. I want to see good actors doing good acting, because they can. In perfect productions if the gay actor is best and they may not be so well known go for it. We may have a new name to be in admiration of to watch. Remember every actor was new in there first roll. They become breakout stars and I’m all for it. Diversity is what it’s all about.

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  4. If only gay actors should play gay roles then only straight actors should play straight roles. How f’d up is that. No actor role ghettos. Actors should play roles period, otherwise what the f is acting.

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  5. If you buy into the “only gay actors should play gay roles” crap and you don’t believe that only straight actors should play straight roles, you are a hypocrite. If you don’t want to see Jake play a gay role, don’t go see the movie. Problem solved.

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