Ramin Setoodeh: Not Only Can Gay Actors Not Play Straight, They Aren’t Allowed to Play Gay Either

Newsweek writer Ramin Setoodeh, who claims he was labeled such a "traitor" following his article suggesting that gay actors can't play straight that he couldn't "walk through New York’s gay neighborhoods without causing a stir," revisited Promises, Promises ("afraid somebody would call the GLAAD police if I were spotted") and had a revelation, he writes, in The Daily Beast:

I realized that I had been all wrong. Setoodeh

It’s not just that audiences don’t often see openly gay actors in straight roles. What’s even more unsettling is that Hollywood doesn’t even allow gay actors to play gay. With the film industry swept up in the congratulatory swirl of awards season, not a single openly gay actor is up for an Oscar nomination. Of course, that’s probably because no openly gay actors even starred in any big films of 2010. The lovable lesbian wives in The Kids Are All Right were played by the heterosexual actresses Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. The quirky couple in I Love You Phillip Morriswere portrayed by straight men Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor.

Setoodeh agrees with Rupert Everett, who claims he was shut out of roles after he came out, offering a laundry list of straight actors — Stanley Tucci, Eric Dane and Bradley Cooper, Jake Gyllenhaal, Greg Kinnear, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sean Penn, Hilary Swank, Charlize Theron, Tom Hanks, and Robin Willians — who have played gay roles.

Setoodeh's argument:

"The rationale for these casting decisions is a Catch-22. You could argue that no one gay is on the A-list, so Hollywood has to hire straight people to fill those roles. But it also has to do with something else. Society still shows a prejudice against gay people, especially those who fit the stereotype: feminine men and masculine women. If you’re willing to hide your sexuality, that’s another story."

He stands by his gay-straight claims about Promises, Promises, adding: "You know what Promises, Promises really needed? Something that would have revived this worn-out revival—a leading man for Sean Hayes."


  1. says

    Aww come on if Ewan McGregor can play the “blond queer” role so well and Johnny Depp a cross-dresser despite being straight I am sure a gay guy who is 100% effeminate in real life can play macho roles in reel. I am sure that some of the closeted leading men of yesteryears – when privacy was a possibility – were queer as they come.

  2. Den says

    The whole point of being a professional actor is that you have the talent to perform roles personalities and traits that are utterly different to your own reality. Your own genuine cultural or sexual identity ought to be irrelevent.

  3. Dan says

    Gay men have been playing straight leads for years. Rock Hudson, James Dean, Tab Hunter, Montgomery Clift, John Travolta, Cary Grant, Richard Chamberlain, Sal Mineo…….on to the next bullshit argument….

    A homo can play a straight romantic hetero leading man and be perceived as straight by a female audience(Tom Cruise).

    But once you’re out(Rupert Everett) and the audience envisions you sucking another man’s cock, you’ve lost credibility, it becomes laughable to the audience.

    It isn’t prejudice, it’s just sexual perception .

  4. JK says

    Name one out actor in the business who’s actually compelling enough on any level to play the A-list roles? R. Everett? Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Lane…

    If these are the pnly choices, then they may as well cast Reichen Lemkuhl in Hamlet.

  5. Rowan says

    Dan, agree 100 percent.

    JK Everett did play a leading man in Importance of being Earnest and in quite a few solid UK films back in the day.

    Matt Bomer plays straight and is leading man. Quinto not so much. Jim Parsons nah.

    Bradley Cooper is gay. Franco is gay. I can say more, it’s just that they aren’t out.

  6. dk says

    The real problem imo is people have such a morbid curiosity about peoples sex lives until it overshadows the art. It affects showbiz as a whole, not just actors. Until we stop affixing the tag, “openly gay ____” to people promoting a movie or cd, we will not get past this. This is also why so many people don’t come out. They want to be acknowleded for their performance on screen, not in bed.

  7. Dan says

    McKellen, gay, yes and working yes, but…has NEVER been a romantic leading man. Richard Gere in the closet and works as a lead non-stop.

    The deal breaker in casting “gay as straight”…women are just not going to plunk $$ down for a movie ticket to watch Rupert Everett having sex with Angelina Jolie.

    On the other hand…”Straight as gay” casting works because it plays into the fantasy that gay men already have about sex with straight men.

    Gay audiences will flock to see Gyllenhaal and Ledger boning each other, because it’s wishful thinking and not much of stretch from what they already want to see and do themselves. Hollywood knows this and manipulates and milks it.

    BTW, most of the big casting agents and talent management power brokers(Huvane Bros.) are wickedly gay men and are the one’s making these casting decisions.

    Why aren’t they casting gay actors if they have the power to do so in their hands?


  8. jomicur says

    Setoodeh writes, “If you’re willing to hide your sexuality, that’s another story.” He might want to pause for a moment and consider that hiding your sexuality IS acting. And large numbers of gay actors do it successfully. I’d like to see that change, i.e. a lot more talented actors coming out. But to argue that, in effect, being gay per se makes you a bad actor is pure hogwash.

  9. GAYLY says

    Setoodeh’s point that gay actors can act but are not given work is well taken. MarkDC also has a point about cultural identity vs. sexual orientation but veers off into a train wreck.
    Internalized gay-phobia (as opposed to homophobia?) is a luxury afforded only to those who can “act” straight/butch with little effort. He assumes that those who can’t are adopting some gay identity or are “weak”? I disagree. I think there is much more pressure to “act” straight for the fey than there is for the butch to “gay” it up. And, more tolerance afforded them both within the community and in the mainstream. In fact, I would argue that non-butch straight men (often perceived of as gay) get more grief than macho gay men get.
    MarkDC: Quit your whining you sissy.

  10. Rocky says

    @Dan spare me the “sexual perception” jazz

    Its quite simple that this heterosexist society is still suffering from its own anti-gay prejudices.And we are being forced their anti-gay garbage.

  11. David says

    Who cares what this fool says his writing is so bad it looks like he failed fourth grade English glass and that got his Journalism degree from some low rent correspondence course run of a strip mall in Nebraska.

  12. D.B. says

    Setoodeh keeps digging himself deeper and deeper into a hole with every word he writes — gay actors can’t possibly play straight, but he now complains that gay actors are not getting the handful of mainstream gay roles anyway. Given his logic, I guess all gay actors should just give up and go home.

  13. Rich says


    We are forcing our own anti-gay garbage in the media by our own gay media power brokers. Reinforcing stereotypes and misconceptions under the guise of entertainment.

    Example: Bravo Channel’s programming and mangement is predominantly in the hands of gay men(Andy Cohen and Co.). Do they cast legitimate gay and lesbian people? They have the power to do so. Instead, they choose to air the reality coonery and buffoonery we currently see with Mizrahi, Tim Gunn, Carson Kressly, Jeff West(Flipping Out), Andy Cohen, etc…there is no legitimate representation of our community just assinine bitchery, swish and flamboyance.

    Audiences aren’t laughing with them but AT them.

    And then we whine that it’s prejudice. Tell that to Andy Cohen. Tell that to the Huvane Bros, in Hollywood, they’re raking in the money while we play the blame game.

  14. HB says

    We’re forcing a 12 inch foot into a 7 inch shoe here!

    No one wants to see an out of the closet gay man play a straight romantic role any more than they want to see Gaby Sidibe play a scantily clad, sexy femme fatale role.

    Coming out will always be career suicide for any gay man who wants to play straight.

  15. StillmarriedinCA says

    “No one wants to see an out of the closet gay man play a straight romantic role any more than they want to see Gaby Sidibe play a scantily clad, sexy femme fatale role.

    Coming out will always be career suicide for any gay man who wants to play straight.”

    That’s right, HB. That’s why Neal Patrick Harris doesn’t have a leading role on a popular television show and has not been able to find any work since he came out.

    As more actors do it, it will become a nonissue and people will accept gay actors in romantic straight roles. Same things were said about people “not wanting to see a black man in a leading romantic role”. The audience will evolve if we don’t play into the worst common denominator prejudices about what they “want to see.”

  16. Devon says

    @rocky how can it be prejudice if all along gay men have been working and thriving as A-list stars in hetero roles going back to the days of Rudolph Valentino?

    Revelation of one’s sexuality is what takes you out of column A and puts you into column B. If James Franco announces he’s gay, he’s no longer fuckable to chicks.

    I don’t watch Sylvester Stallone because I think he’s all hetero macho swagger. There’s nothing in it for me as homosexual audience participant.

  17. HB says

    @StillmarriedinCA It’s arguable, but NPH will NEVER be an A-lister.

    We’ll see what the trajectory of career is after his grade B sit com runs it’s course.

    I suspect he’ll be relegated to the Tony Randall, Roddy McDowell level of stardom and offered TV, moives, Broadway parts and musicals ala Sean Hayes. But NPH will NEVER be considered for a certain calibre of scripts and roles and you know it.

    He’ll never be a Damon, or a Pitt or a Clooney(closeted gay?) and command the big bucks.

  18. says

    I suggested Rupert Everett needs to be ‘excommunicated’ from the glbt community in that blog… I think we can add Setoodeh to the list. I’m very glad he doesn’t feel comfortable walking in the ‘gayborhoods.’ He shouldn’t. Free speech doesn’t mean speech without consequences. If he wants to be a self-hater who can’t see reality (that actors can be out and proud and do well in the industry, a la NPH and Ellen), we aren’t suddenly obligated to go out of our way to be *nice* to him.

  19. says

    PS. Anyone who’s dissing NPH because he’s “only” on TV needs to get their head examined. He’s playing the ultimate guy’s guy on one of TV’s highest-rated shows and won a freaking Emmy for it — far more successful a career than most ‘movie stars’ these days. Get a life.

  20. Hank says

    Actually not only have closeted gay men historically been successful Hollywood leading men, in fact all the most sensual Hollywood male sex symbols have been gay or bi. Just to name a few who came out publicly, usually later in life, or who were outed after death, the list would include Brando, Olivier, James Dean, Montgomery Clift, Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Errol Flynn…my theory is that men who appreciate men are more fully able to experience their own body in a sensual way, and thus are able to project more sensuality on screen.

    I think the same is true of today’s leading men, but it is also still true that they can’t afford to be out while still working as leading men.

  21. TS says


    So what! NPH won an Emmy for a very mediocre numbingly juvenile sitcom. Robert Blake also won an Emmy. NUFF SAID.

    So just where does that put him anywhere near in the same league acting wise to compete with the likes of say a Daniel Day Lewis, Tom Hanks or Sean Penn?

  22. mike says

    i dont see why he had a problem walking through gay neighborhoods? i vaugely remember that it was a comment and not offensive. they probly were just ogiling him to see a reaction from that hot face. that he’s gonna keep getting from gays until he figures out how to make his eye brows less adorable.

  23. MarkDC says

    @ GAYLY

    “He assumes that those who can’t are adopting some gay identity or are “weak”? I disagree.” -GAYLY

    So there is such a thing as “straight acting” but no such thing as “Gay” acting? Really?

    Why is it Gay Orthodoxy stipulates gender is learned for everyone…except The Gays? Why is it the gender of everyone on earth is fake…except for The Gays? Are you trying to argue one is BORN loving Cher and Project Runway? Be careful about that. It’s a sloppy argument. By implication it’s bigoted and self-loathing: you’d also be arguing all Asians are BORN good at math and all Black American men are BORN thugs when they’re clearly NOT. Slippery slope.

    Think about it: if masculinity is not naturally occurring in ALL biological males then you are not only arguing that The Gays are NOT masculine, you’re arguing they NEVER can be. Dumbass.

    Stop pretending gender is entirely acquired (i.e. learned). Males are naturally (genetically) different from females and each sex, as a result, behaves differently…naturally.

    Genetic differences in chromosomal structure, biological differences in brain structure and chemicals, hormones, differences in bone structure and body mass ALL result in phenotypic distinctions in appearance AND behavior between males and females.

    You’re right: “there is much more pressure to ‘act’ straight for the fey”. Why? Because they make the mistake of believing gender is “acting” IN THE FIRST PLACE. This kind of thinking is the classic misguided pose of marginalized people with Stockholm Syndrome. Masculinity is not acquired, it is not a projection. It is the natural phenotypic expression of the body a man already naturally has.

    How can a fey Gay guy “act” masculine when 100% of his energy is devoted to “acting” fey? It’s not possible. If, however, he STOPS acting he sees very quickly that masculinity is NOT some adversarial carnival of extremes (i.e. macho v. fey) but a less remarkable, natural expression of biology without the culturally layered bullshit of Rambo or Liberace.

    Stop pretending NATURAL human behavior (i.e. gender) for men is a pose. You insult humans everywhere. It is, in fact, The Gays who are acting. They’ve swallowed the minstrel show identity created FOR them by hegemony. Stereotypes are so comforting…especially to those who embrace them unironically, whether straight or Gay.

    That’s ok. Keep sucking at the tit of your oppression.

  24. Stan says

    Woefully deluded MARKDC, Your warped concept of hegemonic masculinity in our community is glaringly evidenced by your pathologically militant acceptance of the existence of a culturally normative ideal of male behavior and virility.

    In your atrophied brain, does it occur to you that different masculinities can sit side by side as alternative states of being that men can freely choose from?

    Just because you’re morbidly afraid of being stigmatized as being “feminine” as a homosexual man, does not mean others do.

    Yes Virginia, your sissyphobia is showing. You ARE closet homophobe.

    Just because you had to gain your personal access to masculine privilege before coming out by playing to a hypermasculine gendered script does not mean others did so. The were free to be and just let it all hang out, which no doubt made you wince in your world of self shame.

    Ironically, you’re the one who sounds like the girl and the sissy because you what you lack is guts and bravery.