Cumberbatch, who is married to a woman, said at the Telluride Film Festival that his casting “wasn’t done without thought,” as reported by IndieWire.
“One of the appeals of the track was the idea that in this world, with this particular character, there was a lot of private, hidden from view,” he said at the festival, where the film was shown.
Cumberbatch plays Phil in the film, based on the 1967 novel of the same name. In the novel, Phil’s sexuality is alluded to, but never openly confirmed by author Thomas Savage; the spiky, cunning nature of his character is defined by a lifetime of repression.
Cumberbatch added that acclaimed New Zealand film director Jane Campion “chose us as actors” to play their roles.
“I also have the feeling, is this something where our dance card should be public?” said Cumberbatch. “Do we have to explain all our private moments in our sexual history? I don’t think so.”
Hollywood has been casting actors in heterosexual relationships in gay roles for decades. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal played lovers in “Brokeback Mountain”. Cate Blanchett fell in love with a shop girl in ‘Carol’. Cumberbatch previously played Alan Turing, a World War II codebreaker who was convicted of “indecency” for his relationship with a man and underwent chemical castration, in “The Imitation Game.” All four actors were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances.
Some of the creators involved in those films, such as director Todd Haynes of “Carol” and Luca Guadagnino, who directed “Call Me By Your Name,” which also featured straight actors, are gay themselves. The movie “Moonlight”, which followed a gay black man through three phases of his life, was celebrated for circumventing the stereotypes of gay men, although some straight actors starred.
While casting cisgender actors in transgender roles has recently fallen out of popular practice — LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD says casting in this way “perpetuates the belief that transgender people are not real” — there is no comparable consensus when it comes to actors playing gay characters. (The organization did not immediately respond to NewsMadura’s request for comment regarding straight actors portraying gay characters.)
Vanity Fair critic Richard Lawson wrote in a review of the 2020 film “The Prom” that there is no “set rule about who should play gay men on screen”. Nuance, however, is necessary for any actor playing a gay character, he said.
That’s part of why James Corden’s casting in “The Prom” as a flamboyant faded Broadway star has been widely criticized: Corden, who is married to a woman, has been playing on stereotypes of gay men, who said that his performance was “offensive”. and called him “offensively misguided.”
“In general, yes, I wish more gay actors had the opportunity to tell our stories, to embody our people, rather than straight men getting praise for being brave — or cheering for being cheeky,” Lawson wrote. in his review of the film. “…But Corden, fluttering and lisping in the most uninspired caricatures, lacks all potential for nuance, and so never finds any semblance of truth in the role.”
Corden was nominated for a Golden Globe for the performance.
But the idea that playing a gay role is a “brave” decision for a straight actor is becoming less dominant, critic Guy Lodge said in an interview with The Guardian, evidenced by the lack of buzz for films like “Ammonite” and “Supernova”. ‘, both of which focused on queer love stories played by straight actors.
“I think the idea of being ‘brave’ for playing gays is fading,” Lodge said. “I think that in itself is now seen as quite inconspicuous.”