Words: Alastair James; pictures: Wiki
Actor Jake Gyllenhaal has weighed in on the debate about who should play queer roles in film and TV, saying “people of all different experiences should be playing more roles”.
The Brokeback Mountain actor also opened up about the stigma he faced after his role in the 2005 film about two cowboys. Gyllenhaal played Jack Twist opposite the late Heath Ledger’s Ennis Del Mar.
The debate about straight actors playing queer roles has been hotly debated over recent years with many actors adding their two cents.
“There was a stigma”
Asked by The Sunday Times if he felt that there would be a “different reaction” to straight actors being cast in Brokeback Mountain if it was made now Jake said: “I don’t know. Maybe?
“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? And I think it was very important to both of us to break that stigma,” he continued.
But this, he said, had “led the way” people to people saying: “People of all different experiences should be playing more roles, that it shouldn’t be limited to a small group of people. And I believe that.”
The actor, who was nominated for an Oscar for Brokeback Mountain, says he was proud to play the role. Speaking of the reaction he had at the time from the gay community he says: “The reaction from the majority of the gay community when the movie came out, I got this sort of — we both did, everyone in the movie — we got this overwhelming sense of open-heartedness and gratitude.”
Last week it was announced that Hollywood’s first major studio-produced gay rom-com, Bros (written, produced, and starring the openly gay actor and comedian Billy Eichner) had cast LGBTQ actors in all the principal roles, including straight characters.
Eichner spoke to Deadline in 2020 about seeing casting lists for the movie’s characters and his dismay at the number of straight actors being considered for gay roles, but no gay actors being considered for straight characters.
He told Deadline it was important for gay actors to tell their own stories and lived experiences and bring that nuance to the screen.
“I think we need to stop undervaluing that, the feeling that if a gay person plays a gay person it’s not acting but if a straight person plays a gay person, we give them an Oscar.”
The Attitude October issue is out now.