In an interview with PEOPLE Magazine, Harry Hamlin says playing a gay writer in the 1982 queer-themed film, Making Love, “ended my film career.”
For those who aren’t familiar with the film, it was – in many ways – the Brokeback Mountain of its time. Produced by 20th Century Fox, it was the first major studio film about a same-sex affair.
In the film, Hamlin played Bart, a gay novelist who becomes involved with a young doctor, Zack (played by Michael Ontkean) who is just coming to grips with who he is even though he’s been married for several years to TV executive, Claire (played by a post-Charlie’s Angels Kate Jackson).
As you can see in the original trailer, 20th Century Fox knew it had a film that dealt with material not usually seen at your local cineplex.
Prior to Making Love, most queer characters in films were either victims of some horrible death or portrayed as crazy murderers or flamboyant (popular word back in the day) over-the-top queens.
Reflecting on the 40th anniversary of the film, Hamlin tells PEOPLE, “I was told by a lot of people, you can’t do that movie. I think it had been offered to pretty much everybody in town and everyone had turned it down because they thought it might be damaging to their careers.”
But Hamlin says he was “looking for something serious and something meaningful, rather than doing a movie about vampire bats invading a small town in in the Midwest, which is the type of fare I was being offered at the time.”
While his friends urged him to turn the role down, Hamlin’s agent thought it was a good idea. “He said I was somewhat Teflon because I was out in the press having had a son with Ursula Andress.”
“Everyone knows you’re straight so you’re going to be okay,” Hamlin recalls his agent telling him. “But I didn’t really pay much attention to any of that noise. I thought it was interesting and bold. I was attracted to that.”
The film’s release was met with mediocre reviews. With most of the attention on the subject matter, the performances were pretty much ignored.
This writer vividly remembers seeing Making Love in a movie theater while I was a freshman in college. While I hadn’t come to terms with my own sexuality at the time, things were bouncing around in my head. Sitting in the dark theater, the tension in the air was palpable as Hamlin and Ontkean kissed onscreen. I recall a male movie goer yelling out, “Don’t do it!!!”
After making what was, at the time, a bold choice as an actor, Hamlin would later realize its impact on his career.
“For years, I’d think was that the reason why I stopped getting calls? And finally realized that was the last time I ever did a movie for a studio,” the now-70 actor says. “I’ve done independent films but never a studio film. I had been doing nothing but studio films and basically going out on all the castings for all the movies. That stopped completely.”
Of course, today we see actors not only accepted in LGBTQ roles, but honored with Academy Awards. Just a few examples include Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, Sean Penn in Milk, Charlize Theron in Monster, Mahershala Ali in Green Book, Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody and Olivia Colman in The Favourite.
Four years after Making Love, Hamlin scored in the hugely successful NBC TV series L.A. Law, which he starred in for five years. More recent work includes his role in Mad Men, plus playing news anchor Tom Brokaw in National Geographic’s The Hot Zone: Anthrax.
Looking back on Making Love, Hamlin says, “Regardless of the effect it had on my film career…I’m very proud of having done that movie.”
He also shares that people have approached him in public thanking him for making the film saying “they were affected by it and that it helped them come out.”
Harry Hamlin Says Playing a Gay Man in Making Love 'Ended My Film Career': It Was 'Ahead of Its Time' https://t.co/2QdKxITKnM
— People (@people) February 14, 2022