This October, Thandie Newton appears onscreen as two disparate divas: ruthless accountant Stella in Guy Ritchie’s crime caper RocknRolla and stylish secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in W, Oliver Stone’s Bush biopic. Addressing both Ritchie’s alleged homophobia and the gossip around Rice’s sexual orientation, the BAFTA Award–winning Crash star — who played Tom Cruise’s love interest in Mission: Impossible II — also reveals a recurring theme in her life of lusting after gay men.
How are you, Thandie?
Yesterday I was in bed all day shivering, so I feel pretty rubbish.
I hope I can make you feel better.
C’mon, then. Cheer me up.
Well, gays adore you! Are you aware of that fan base?
I’m not aware of any fan base at all, to be honest — apart from Germans, who, for some reason, make me very aware of them. Is it big?
This isn’t called Big Gay Following for nothing.
I love that! I have to admit, I have quite a large number of gay friends.
Who’s your closest one?
My friend Ford, whom I’m about to have lunch with. He’s a production designer, and I met him when he was a property master on Beloved; we’ve been close ever since. He’s seven foot tall and gorge. You know what? When I see him I’m going to brag about my big gay following.
Do you remember when you first realized what it meant to be gay?
Oh, God, yeah. My godfather is gay, but I was also a bridesmaid at my cousin Dorothy’s wedding — she’s from Zimbabwe — and she married a man who we all knew was gay. Even me, and I was 5 years old! A couple of years later they parted company, and he went off to explore his true calling. So yeah, it’s very much in my social genes.
Dorothy sounds a bit like your character Stella in RocknRolla.
Yes, [Stella] is married to Bertie, who’s gay. Women feel very relaxed and comfortable around gay men. Gay men are more evolved emotionally than straight men and stronger too, because they’ve had to make claims that are very often difficult to make in our social environment. So there’s that strength and sensitivity we crave. For Stella, there’s all of that, I imagine, but the fact that she’s married to this guy is much more of a tactical move. Also, she doesn’t need a man to empower her, so what’s the point of marriage?