Though openly-gay Newsweek journalist Ramin Setoodeh’s infamous 2010 article “Straight Jacket” was certainly a misguided piece of criticism, it unfortunately brought to light an all-too-common misconception held by both Hollywood decision makers and members of the public at large – that gay actors are incapable of adequately portraying straight characters on-screen.
History, of course, shows that ludicrous assertion to be entirely false – particularly considering the number of closeted gay actors from earlier eras who vaulted to stardom specifically because they were able to convincingly portray straight romantic leads.
Of course, those were much more intolerant times – times in which actors were continuously pressured to hide their sexuality for fear they’d be rejected if the truth came out (a sadly valid point in those days). Now, however – while we still have a long way to go – there’s an emerging crop of openly-gay actors who are proving it’s possible to thrive in Hollywood despite the public’s awareness of their sexual orientation.
In honor of these brave individuals – and of those actors from past eras who were forced to hide their sexuality for fear of public persecution – we’ve compiled an alphabetical list of twelve thespians (both past and present) who demonstrate that, just as straight actors have proven adept at convincingly “playing gay” in films such as Philadelphia, Brokeback Mountain and I Love You Philip Morris, gay actors are likewise more than capable of effectively inhabiting the on-screen lives of straight characters.
Famed British actor Dirk Bogarde’s native stardom shot to the stratosphere with his leading roles in several romantic comedies, beginning with the 1954 box-office hit Doctor in the House. As medical student/straight bachelor Dr. Simon Sparrow, Bogarde was able to showcase both his deft comic skills and leading-man chops in the film, which proved so successful he would go on to reprise the role three more times.
And though he would subsequently “play gay” in several movies beginning with 1961’s The Victim, it’s indicative of Bogarde’s supreme acting prowess that of his six BAFTA nominations for Best Actor, four of them came from playing straight men.
Springboarding to “teen idol” status with his role as young medical intern Dr. Kildare on the hit 1960s TV series of the same name, the breathtakingly-handsome Richard Chamberlain later went on to star as hunky Father Ralph de Bricassart in the blockbuster 1983 TV miniseries The Thorn Birds. In his effortlessly-credible portrayal of a conflicted priest falling desperately in love with the beautiful Meggie Cleary, Chamberlain won the hearts of female viewers everywhere – which must have made it all the more shocking when he was outed by French women’s magazine Nous Deux in 1989 (though Chamberlain wouldn’t publicly acknowledge the fact until nearly 15 years later).