Viggo Mortensen suggested the possibility that he might not be "completely straight" in response to criticism that he is playing gay.
The Lord of the Rings star portrays a gay role, John, in a new film he penned, Falling, which is also his directorial debut. The movie tells the story of John's relationship with his antigay father, Willis (Lance Henriksen), who moves to Los Angeles to join his son after a dementia diagnosis.
Previously, Mortensen made headlines for saying this portrayal is not "a gimmick, anchor or some trigger" — and compared the issue to the authentic casting of proctologists, such as the role inhabited by David Cronenberg in Falling.
To The Times, a British newspaper, Mortensen continued to address the issue. He said conversations about casting are “healthy” but he “didn’t think it was a problem” about his own portrayal of a gay role.
“People then ask me, “Well what about Terry Chen, who plays my husband in the film, is he a homosexual?” And the answer is I don’t know,” he said.
“I would never have the temerity to ask someone if they were. And how do you know what my life is? You’re assuming that I’m completely straight.
“Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. And it’s frankly none of your business. I want my movie to work, and I want the character of John to be effective.
“So if I didn’t think it was a good idea I wouldn’t do it.”
Mortensen's remarks come at a time of increased debate over the appropriateness of straight actors portraying gay roles. This week, James Corden has been slammed for portraying the "worst gayface" in Netflix's The Prom. Portrayals that feed less into tropes, like Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci in Supernova, receive less pushback.
Historically, out actors were less likely to be cast in starring roles, even gay ones, as this list of 61 straight people who received Oscar nominations for LGBTQ+ roles attests. However, casting LGBTQ+ roles with LGBTQ+ actors is not a straightforward process due to, ironically, antidiscrimination laws that prevent casting directors from asking those auditioning about their sexual orientation or gender identity.