Michael Douglas Knows Actors Who Are Hiding In The Closet

Michael douglas behind the candelabra

Michael Douglas’s well-received performance in Behind the Candelabra may have been partially inspired by true-life experience. That is, he claims to know “a couple of people” who have “not come out in the spirit of protecting their careers and livelihoods.”

The quote comes from a Shortlist interview, during which he discussed the film, his own career, his battle with cancer, and the subject of gay actors. More specifically, he grappled with the question of whether American audiences would have difficulty accepting a gay actor in a straight leading role.

“It’s a good question. Without naming names, I certainly think there are a couple of people out there who have not come out in the spirit of protecting their careers and livelihoods. It’s probably a little bit more difficult going that way. I think that’s true.”

He also remarked:

“It’s a much smaller minority of people who think they still have to stay in the closet. It’s quite interesting to see how fast it’s all changed.”

It is also worth noting that Douglas’ closeted peers may have some legitimate reasons for staying that way, since Candelabra was deemed “too gay for theaters”, according to the film’s director.

"Nobody would make it. We went to everybody in town. We needed $5 million. Nobody would do it…They said it was too gay. Everybody. This was after Brokeback Mountain, by the way."


  1. says

    the irony of The Closet is that it’s not actually the safe-haven: it’s the reason prejudice continues.

    Closet-Cases simply ensure that other Closet Cases will exist. Everyone thinking too much about themselves, and not about helping each other.

    why is it hard for “you” in “your situation” to Come Out? because too many other person like “you” in “your situation” made the same self-serving choice to not Come Out.

    you can continue to be a part of the problem, or you can be the hammer that smashes the glass ceilings.

    but what you cannot be is a grown adult in north america in 2013 who talks about how hard it is to come out when you’re simply a part of the reason that it continues to be so hard to come out.

  2. jjose712 says

    Little Kiwi : Sorry, but i find your words simplistic.
    A lot of people don’t come out of the closet, some for lack of self acceptance, some of fear to lose their jobs and some for fear to lose their lives. And a good bunch of them have very good reasons to fear.

    Of course, the actors case is not that extreme, but it’s a very competitive world when most people fail. And i’m not talking about faileng of being a big star, and talking about failing on making their passion their way of life.

    Most people look at the bright side of being an actor, the money, the fame and all the rest, but that’s not the case of most actors, and being in the limelight can be very dangerous if you are not ready.

    I appreciate the actors who are brave to come out, and now there’s a good bunch who came out really young. But in my opinion they must to come out when they are ready to come out, and they must come out because they feel the best for them is being out, not because they owe something to the rest of us or because it’s their obligation.

    I think sometimes people are very harsh to public figures, Matt Bomer or Jodie Foster endured mockery for years, curiously people is a lot softer with real closet cases who date beards.
    We even have recently the case of an english actor who was totally out on his home country and now avoid the press and even when he talks to the press he makes a real effort to pretent to be straight.

    Don’t get me wrong, the more actor (and singers, and athletes) to come out the better, but i don’t think it’s just a simple proccess, because you are coming out in front of everyone, because you are a public figure

  3. says

    remember this: Coming Out is only hard because a minority of us do it.

    I actually WISH there was some magical dust that fell from the sky and marked every single one of us as GAY in a visible way.

    the world cannot disown 20 million sons and daughters.

    and remember, Jose – if everyone took your advice, there’d be no Out people at all, and no Communities to speak of.

    by all means – stay closeted until you’re “ready” to not be. Just be aware that people like you similarly “not being ready” is the very reason you’re in the predicament you’re in.


    “It is also worth noting that Douglas’ closeted peers may have some legitimate reasons for staying that way, since Candelabra was deemed “too gay for theaters”, according to the film’s director.”

    Reasons, yes, but “legitimate”? That’s disgusting. Show some self-respect and dignity. Internalized homophobia is so 90s.

  5. MIke says

    Most parents don’t have a child serving a long prison term so he might want to learn a “no comment” when it comes to other actor’s private lives.

  6. says

    not to mention, grown-adults who continue to give excuses to Not Come Out aren’t exactly extending much compassion or support to those who Can’t Hide.

    some of us were called out as the “neighbourhood f@ggot” when we were children.

  7. northalabama says

    if actors in hollywood, of all places, stay in the closet for fear of prejudice, what chance in hell does anyone, anywhere else, or in any other business have?

    how about if you’re working for a small business owner in the south, an “at will” state? where do you move, and who do you work for?

    did anyone see 100,000 protest gay adoption and marriage in france? how about the reaction here to allowing gays in the bsa?

    i guess if you aren’t self employed, you might as well give up on coming out, or risk losing your livelihood, at least until attitudes change. that’s a sad statement.

  8. MateoM says

    Mike, you know full well that his child’s incarceration has nothing to do with this. But by all means keep trolling. Show how petty and pathetic you are.

  9. jjose712 says

    northalabama: You are mistaking Hollywood parties with Hollywood as industry.
    And it’s well known that some casting directors (some of them gay) didn’t cast gay actors.
    Hollywood is all about the money, maybe they like you personally, but if they think they will lose money if you are in the film, you will not be casted, as simple as that.

    And the fact the after Brokeback mountain there was not any promoted gay film from a big major speak louder than words.

    And if we talk about singers the thing is way worse, because pop maybe is very gay friendly, but radio in the USA is not, and in the last decade i can only remember three songs in the top 40 sang by openly gay singers.

    The fact that someone like Matt Bomer was able to come out without his popularity fall, it’s a good sign, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and changes are taken step by step.
    Maybe one day one can watch a blockbuster with a gay actor in the male lead role, but i don’t think that day is near

  10. Ryan says

    It’s success on HBO I bet has some studios angry at themselves for not picking this movie up. I’m not sure it would have been the $100+ million blockbuster that was Brokeback Mountain, but I bet it would have been close to it.

    Even if this movie made $60/75 million at the box office — which it definitely could have done, IMO — it would have made some pretty good money for a studio out there, particularly since the film was made on a very low budget. (Soderberg is great at making low budget movies look like medium-high budget.)

  11. MateoM says

    Ratbastard, is it safe to assume you were never a closet troll? Is it safe to assume you couldn’t pass as a thoughtful contributor to this site?

  12. Mike in the tundra says

    Have the two groups become segregated? I know there must be a lot of closeted gay men around here, but I don’t know any of them.

  13. Derrick from Philly says

    “Have the two groups become segregated? I know there must be a lot of closeted gay men around here, but I don’t know any of them.”

    That’s an interesting question, Mike. It depends on how “passable” the Gay guy is. There are some closet cases who even though they don’t have the guts to come out still claim to Gay friends.

    I have two cousins who are on the “down low” I talk with one of them on the phone every now and then, but neither one of them would be comfortable being with me in public.

    So, yes, I guess there is still segregation between OUT Gay men and closeted homosexual men…I guess.

  14. alex says

    jjose712: Thanks for pointing that out. Many Hollywood directors and producers are very liberal. That fact is immaterial if the studio leadership won’t fund projects with openly gay actors.

    For other commenters: It’s a nice platitude to say that all gay actors should come out. But, why should one person have to sacrifice his or her livelihood just to help “the cause”?

    Actors aren’t required to be role models. I don’t fault anyone who keeps their private life private…assuming they aren’t supporting anti-gay causes. At this point, being an openly gay actor makes you a de facto spokesperson. I know some actors who are self-absorbed and fairly unpleasant in person. They wouldn’t be someone I’d want to be the face of the gay rights movement.

  15. jaragon says

    Actors who are leading men type would have a hard time if they came out- character actors could still work- when was the last time Kevin Spacey was cast as romantic lead? The Liberace movie would have probably been a minor hit if he had been marketed bio film not a gay film.

  16. Brent says

    Hollywood is based on the marketing of romance to women. Even action movies contain romance to women. The female public is not comfortable with the male homosexual concept within men who are marketing romance to them.

    If anything, blame women.

  17. Jon says

    “Actors aren’t required to be role models”

    Unfortunately, you are wrong. Whether you like it or not, this world looks up to and pays attention to celebs, and if you’re a decent person, you’re going to use that platform you have to make a difference. You must be a closet case to defend closet cases.

  18. geb says

    You are not required to do anything as a celebrity. Defend yourself.
    And what is this “difference” we always hear about? Don’t be so spineless.

  19. Simo says

    I’m pretty sure Neil Patrick Harris is accepted in his straight roles, especially the stereotypical stud characters that he plays on how I met your mother and the Harold and Kumar movies. I struggle to believe he is gay when I see him in those roles, he is fabulous.

  20. Professor Von Pie says

    Ehrenstein made a small comment that went under the radar, and I want to expand on it. He named two names: Kevin Spacey and Dolly Parton. I am old enough to know of Parton when she began her career. Yes, she is a lesbian. Most, if not all, of us know about Spacey. But here’s the thing: If somebody wrote in some mainstream venue that Spacey is gay, there would be hardly a ripple. A talented actor, Spacey is none the less unlikeable as a person, or, more accurately, a personality. Just say boo about Parton, and just stand back and see the slings and arrows. Because the public finds her likeable, what with her self-deprecating down-home humorous image, and feels a need to “defend” her… as if saying she’s a lesbian is slander or writing it is libel. See what I’m getting at? How do I put it gently…? The public is DUMB. The masses cannot get past this. Any change must come from above, from on high. People who have made hundreds of millions of dollars already, who have no compelling need to work… they should step up to the plate. When I say “should,” I mean morally. Yes, I made a moral judgment, and tough toenails if anyone doesn’t like that.

  21. Francis #1 says

    Just highlights the surface level acceptance we’ve gained, but still seeking true unconditional acceptance. A study was done regarding movie goers who are college students and they felt gay actors were just as qualified at the same roles as straight actors. But there’s a big caveat—they also judged them to be less masculine.

    That’s the reason gay/bisexual male actors will not come out. Society does still see gay men as “lesser men” and lesser in general. So it’s not that the public sees gay men as less qualified. Just less credible. Until that changes, then you’re not going to see actors take the risk, let alone movie executives. Heck, there isn’t much commercial/TV representation of homosexuality, either, especially outside of comedies.

    It’s going to take a while. We’re not there yet as a society. I agree with Kiwi, though, that if all gay actors came out tonight, people would be FORCED to reexamine their biases and that would, at the very least, put everything on the table.

  22. Shelly says

    Hell, Kiwi, I live in rural Georgia and I don’t even know anybody still in the closet. I think your assertion that only a “minority of us” are out is unlikely. From where I stand, sure looks like those in the closet are the minority, and Hollywood seems to be the big hold-out.

  23. emjayay says

    I believe that when video of Kevin Spacey cavorting with a buddy in some natural area (I seem to remember a bunch of big rocks, maybe at the coast) I believe he was all denying everything. He’s not a leading man in the first place because he’s not leading man material.

    Of course Hollywood is the last frontier of guys coming out for all the reasons mentioned. Years ago there were lots of big name gay film actors and none of them came out, and in fact all were in sham marriages, maybe arranged by the studios. It wasn’t practically possible for hardly anyone to come out back in the day, but obviously the ice is breaking.

  24. Josh says

    Finding out a male celebrity is gay brings to the public senses ass play. That taboo is certain “box office poison,” for any male actors career. American’s are deathly afraid of their asses.

  25. Professor Von Pie says

    Rae, to answer your question… of course he could work again, but not at his current price. Please read my earlier post. Clooney has made a ton of money already. He has long ago lost the aspiring actor’s worry of poverty. Clooney has the financial security to speak out and help make progressive changes in the way the public thinks.

  26. Bryan says

    Oh sweet Jeebus.

    Is there anyone alive who dozen know a dozen closeted actors?

    Is there anyone alive who hasn’t hooked up with at least three of them?

  27. Paul says

    I love how it is the people who have the least to lose from coming out when it comes to career options in a field that is all about image are the ones that pretty much demand people come out. If they don’t come out they try to bully them by shaming them saying they must do it for everyone else. Damn how they feel or how it affects them if they aren’t ready or willing to come out. Shame on them for making the personal decision and not thinking about everyone else.

  28. says

    there’s an evasion of truth when a grown adult says “You can’t force me to Come Out”

    what’s the evasion? that person is already letting Others force them to “Stay In”

    you’re already not living your life on your own terms. you’re living your life on someone else’s. namely, anti-gay folks’.

    just remember, however – until you stand up and Come Out, you’re in no place to criticize how other Out people conduct their lives.

  29. Professor Von Pie says

    That’s a good point, Little Kiwi. The “you have no business telling me what to do” rationale doesn’t hold up. The closeted millionaire is already letting someone tell him what to do, as part of a deal: I play the game your way, and you let me keep my income high. The closeted millionaire cannot claim the high road of independence, integrity; he has merely chosen a real bully over a perceived bully.

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