9 Jan 2008

playing gay isn't bravery, says british actor stephen fry

While expressing his frustration at being pigeonholed as a gay actor, the British comedian-actor-novelist also criticised those who heap praise on straight actors for their "bravery" in playing gay roles.

"People say: 'Ooh, how brave of you.'" But why should heterosexual male stars be hailed as "brave" when they take on gay roles? Comedian-actor-novelist Stephen Fry posed the question in an interview published in the current edition of the Radio Times.

Stephen Fry was named the second most influential gay person in Britain in May 2007 - behind Queer as Folk producer and writer Russell T Davies - by the Independent on Sunday Pink List.
He was speaking about the single status of his TV character solicitor-sleuth Peter Kingdom in the ITV1 Sunday night drama series, Kingdom.

"I think the fact that I'm so well known to be gay makes it very difficult to have a convincing relationship with a woman on screen. Straight actors can play gay people and they're rather congratulated on it. People say 'Ooh, how brave of you.'"

His comments follow a string of Hollywood actors such as Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain) as well as Philip Seymour Hoffman (Truman Capote) and Tom Hanks (Philadelphia) who have been showered with accolades for playing gay characters.

The 50-year-old, who is probably best known for being one half of comedy act and TV series A Bit of Fry & Laurie and portraying Oscar Wilde in the 1997 film Wilde, pointed out that nobody tells a gay actor: "How brave of you to kiss that woman, that must have been very difficult for you."

He added: "It wouldn't be at all difficult for me to kiss a woman - I'll kiss a frog if you like. And why should it be difficult for a man to kiss another man? It's difficult to ride bareback backwards while unicycling, but to kiss someone isn't difficult. It's just part of the insanely irrational way that the human mind works."

He also said in the same interview that that it would have been selfish of him to hide the fact that he was gay as his experiences could help other gay men to be open about their sexuality.

"If you... have had the experiences I have had, not to share them where they can be useful is just mean. The obvious case is coming out as a gay man, which I did when it was quite a rare thing to do."

"You think of the average person in the playground who's terrified of being beaten up, or the people who are not in a job like mine, where it doesn't really matter.

"These people need to be reassured that they're not alone and they're not freaks."

United Kingdom