2019 Oscar Nominees Speak to The Advocate About Telling LGBTQ Stories
Actors, Directors, and Writers from Oscar-Nominated Films Spoke About LGBTQ Representation
Last year was one of the best ever for LGBTQ films, with nearly 40 queer-themed movies landing theatrical releases in 2018. For audiences looking for queer characters on-screen, there were LGBTQ blockbusters like Bohemian Rhapsody and critical darlings like The Favourite and Can You Ever Forgive Me? As a result of the volume of queer content, this year's Oscar race features more LGBTQ representation than ever before across categories. As 2018 unfolded, The Advocate was there to chronicle as much as possible about the cultural impact of queer visibility on the big screen. Throughout 2018, we spoke with actors, writers, and directors who have been nominated for Academy Awards or who are in films that have been nominated about what it means to represent LGBTQ people. Here's what they had to say.
Olivia Colman, Star of 'The Favourite'
"I really pulled two incredibly hot women. I'm punching above my weight," Olivia Colman told The Advocate about having Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone vie for her in The Favourite. Colman (Broadchurch, and the next Queen Elizabeth on The Crown) plays England's Queen Anne in the delicious satire from Yorgos Lanthimos in which Lady Marlborough (Weisz) and the scrappy Abigail (Stone) court her.
"I just kept giggling about the fact that I pulled Rachel and Emily. That was not a hardship," Colman, who is nominated for Best Actress for her role in the film, continued.
"There are many aspects of being an actress. It's a very privileged thing if you're getting work, it's great," Colman said of LGBTQ-themed narratives. "But if you give a voice to people who've been ignored. That's just fucking marvelous. It makes you feel proud."
"It can just get really boring watching heterosexual people, whether you're gay or not. It's boring, particularly when the woman is the object of desire rather than the agent of desire. That's what we've been spoon-fed -- that the woman is the object of the male subjectivity, of his desire and passion. Oh, I'm bored of that. Really bored." Rachel Weisz told The Advocate while promoting Disobedience, the lesbian-themed film she starred in and produced.
Later in the year, Weisz appeared in another queer-themed film, The Favourite, playing the scheming Lady Sarah, who essentially rules England while bedding Oliva Colman's Queen Anne. She landed a supporting actress nomination for her delectable turn.
"I'm just hoping to play some characters when I look back and say, 'That was a role that I think was somehow progressive, somehow [it] started a conversation, and was of course also entertaining.' But if it made us somewhat introspective about who we are as human beings and a society or about some atrocity from the past or what it meant to be a human being struggling with identity at a certain period of time, and we can reflect on how that's changed in our present time, then I will feel somewhat fulfilled," Malek, who plays bisexual Queen front man Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, told The Advocate.
Allen Leech of Downton Abbey fame plays the character who is essentially the villain of Bohemian Rhapsody -- Paul Prenter, a master manipulator who became Freddie Mercury's personal manager, drove a wedge between Mercury and other members of Queen, and eventually betrayed and outed Mercury. But Leech told The Advocate he sought to show the humanity in Prenter, who in the film refers to his outsider status as "a queer Catholic boy from Belfast."
"Freddie and Paul were two incredibly lonely people," Leech said. "They saw that in each other, and that's where Paul Prenter found his power over Freddie."
"It was a challenge to show [Prenter] wasn't just a malicious character," he added.
Leech said it was an honor to be in the movie. "This is such a celebration of such an icon," he said. "I feel privileged to have been a part of this film." He also called Oscar nominee Rami Malek's performance as Mercury "sublime."
Marianne Farley, Writer, Director of the Short Film 'Marguerite'
"I had a lot of queer friends who were really moved by it. They're pretty young too, they were not born in the 1920's, and they were moved by it because they could see themselves in Marguerite -- even though they were from a completely different generation," Marianne Farley, writer and director of Oscar-nominated short film Marguerite, told The Advocate.
The touching French-language film tells the story of the elderly Marguerite and her nurse, Rachel. When Marguerite learns that Rachel has a girlfriend, memories from the older woman's youth arise.
"That tells me, yes, we have come a long way when it comes to LGBTQ rights, but there's also a lot of work left to be done. Because it moved the younger generation of queer women, it means that they've been through something like this as well. Because it's not something that's easy to -- especially when you're young -- it's not easy to accept. Because society doesn't allow you to accept it completely yet," Farley said.
Jeff Whitty, Co-Screenwriter of 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?'
"The movie itself is about the hustle -- just the hustle of surviving, especially in Manhattan," said gay Can You Ever Forgive Me? co-screenwriter Jeff Whitty. Whitty spoke with The Advocate about how the historic gay bar Julius' was a historically and symbolically important setting for his queer protagonists Lee Israel and Jack Hock, who run a scam of forging letters from famous authors and other well-known figures. It was "the place that lonely hearts could go and find a connection with people," Whitty said. Read the full interview.
Margot Robbie, Star of 'Mary Queen of Scots'
"It's a very modern thing to label sexuality, and it was, in fact, far more liberal back then. By all historical accounts, there were many rulers who were notoriously bisexual. They were never labeled bisexual. They were never labeled gay, bisexual, straight, or whatever," Margot Robbie told The Advocate of the various kinds of relationships depicted in Mary Queen of Scots. "It was more fluid. I think it's a very modern thing, in general, to put a label on everything."
Robbie played Queen Elizabeth opposite Saoirse Ronan's Mary in the film.
"The amazing thing about it is that people did just sleep with whoever back then because it was the time of the Renaissance. Especially in the French court and throughout Europe, everyone was sort of sleeping with everyone. And there were no qualms about whether it was a man or a woman," Saoirse Ronan, who played the titular role in Mary Queen of Scots, told The Advocate about the sexual fluidity in the film from director Josie Rourke. "Mary sort of brought that with her when she came back to Scotland, which they were shocked by. At that stage, Puritanism, Presbyterianism, and Protestantism were very stoic. There was a Calvinist way of teaching religion and living. It was all about the Bible and it was all very strict."
Ismael Cruz Cordova, Co-Star of "Mary Queen of Scots'
"[The] female figures I had in my life were by no means soft and weak," he says. "For me, [Rizzio] goes beyond the topic of sexual orientation. It also goes into the energy of this person. People have feminine and masculine energy and energy in between. That comfort he expressed, I understand it by virtue of upbringing," Ismael Cruz Cordova told The Advocate about his sexually and gender fluid character Rizzio, who is Mary's (Saoirse Ronan) private secretary in Mary Queen of Scots.
"There's an erasure. There's such a war on trans lives. There's an erasure of so many groups of the queer community," he said of the importance of LGBTQ representation. "I am so incredibly inspired by all these young adults that are coming up -- 17, 18, 19 to their mid-20s that are doing beautiful work in exploring their sexual expression, gender expression, their queerness, the bounds of the gender norm."
"Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg herself has performed gay weddings. When attorneys who don't support gay rights were saying, 'Isn't it OK, gays can have civil partnerships, domestic partnerships, even if they can't have marriage?' And she said, 'Well, isn't that really just like a skim milk marriage?'"
Richard E. Grant, Star of 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?'
"It made an indelible, unforgettable impression on me seeing, in Manhattan, as rich as America is, on street corners, and it wasn't just one street corner... There were emaciated, dying young men holding placards saying, 'I have AIDS. I am dying. I have no family, I've been disowned, I've had no Medicare. Please help me.'" Richard E. Grant told The Advocate about spending time in New York City in the early '90s, around the time his character in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Jack Hock, lived there. "It was devastating to see that."
Grant (Withnail and I, Gosford Park) earned a supporting actor nod for his work in the film opposite Melissa McCarthy's Lee Israel, a lesbian biographer who was ran a scam forging literary letters.
"There were no sets constructed in this movie. When you go to the actual places where these people actually were -- the same chairs, the same bar, the same books. That gives it an inescapable authenticity," Grant said of the film's innate queerness. "No set is going to replicate that in the same way. The fact that Julius' Bar is the oldest gay bar in Manhattan, that gives it history and veracity."