Ben Whishaw opens up about straight actors playing gay characters: “I understand the questions”


Actor Ben Whishaw has opened up about straight actors playing gay characters in a new interview.

Speaking to The Guardian, Whishaw said he “[understood] the questions” surrounding straight actors playing gay characters, adding that “discussion” and “listening to each other” about the issues was important rather than disagreement.

“I think Eddie did a beautiful job,” he said of Eddie Redmayne’s performance in The Danish Girl as trans pioneer Lili Elbe. Whishaw had a supporting role in the film.

He continued: “And it’s done. Going forward, there will be other films in which the role is given to someone who lived that experience. Why shouldn’t a role like that be given to someone who knows, inside, what the character is? I’m all for that.

“I feel the same, sometimes, about straight actors playing gay parts. I’m critical if I don’t think the performance is, from my subjective experience, accurate. I might think, ‘I don’t believe you!’ And even a small moment of hesitation or inauthenticity will block my engagement with the whole story. So I understand these questions.”

“I just feel that we can end up arguing over these black-and-white things and get extremely polarised over these questions when I don’t think it needs to be that way. Have a discussion! There can be disagreement! There can be different points of view!”

He concluded: “I love contradictory things. Ambiguity. And if we look, if anyone takes a moment to look inside themselves about how they’re thinking or feeling on a subject, they’ll immediately see all manner of things that are not consistent. So I’m on the side of listening to each other.”

Whishaw, who played tech wizard Q in the last three James Bond films, has said previously that he would like a gay actor to play the next 007.

The star made his Bond debut opposite Daniel Craig in 2012’s Skyfall, and features in the latest film No Time To Die.

Now that Craig has departed from the franchise a replacement must be found, and Whishaw believes that hiring a gay actor for the job would be “quite an extraordinary thing”.

“Of course, I would like to see that,” he told Attitude. “I really believe that we should be working towards a world where anyone can play anything and it would be really thrilling if it didn’t matter about someone’s sexuality to take on a role like this.”

He continued: “I think that would be real progress. But we’ll see, we’ll just see where we’re at. I’m amazed by how much has changed in the last five or six years, so we’ll see.”





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