Kate Winslet is the type of actress who people love to work with. Not only is she professional, but she’s also quite kind. That means that in the business, she’s racked up a lot of friends. She’s even still on good terms with Leonardo DiCaprio, even though the two filmed Titanic decades ago.
Speaking of “decades ago,” actors in the LGBTQ community used to feel completely unwelcome in the industry. Despite negative press, Ellen DeGeneres will always be a trailblazer for outing herself on her television sitcom. Unfortunately, while it was a powerful move, it got her blacklisted in Hollywood until her career resurged and she became one of the most powerful daytime television hosts in history.
While things seem better and more open for those in the community, Kate spoke up to say that there’s still a lot of homophobia in Hollywood. Personally, she knows at least four people who are still afraid of coming out because they fear the repercussions.
Kate Winslet spoke to The Times about it and wasn’t afraid to be open and honest. She said that the people she knows vary in age, but they share something in common. And that is, they fear how their careers might change if people knew that they were gay.
“I cannot tell you the number of young actors I know — some well known, some starting out — who are terrified their sexuality will be revealed and that it will stand in the way of their being cast in straight roles,” she said. “Now that’s (expletive) up.” This also may come as a surprise to fans of movies and television, as more and more actors and others in the industry have chosen to come out without any visible repercussions. That said, fans never know what is said behind the scenes.
“I’m telling you,” Kate stated. “A well-known actor has just got an American agent and the agent said, ‘I understand you are bisexual. I wouldn’t publicise that.’ I can think of at least four actors absolutely hiding their sexuality. It’s painful. Because they fear being found out. And that’s what they say. ‘I don’t want to be found out.'”
Kate admitted she’s seen some negativity happen most with men who come out. “It’s bad news,” she said. “Hollywood has to drop that dated crap of, ‘Can he play straight because, apparently, he’s gay?'” Clearly, plenty of actors have been able to successfully take on roles that are different from their own stated sexuality, but Hollywood might not have noticed.
“That should be almost illegal,” Kate stated. “You would not believe how widespread it is. And it can’t just be distilled to the question about gay actors playing gay parts. Because actors, in some cases, are choosing not to come out for personal reasons. And it’s nobody’s business. Perhaps privacy. Perhaps conditioning and shame.”
“We could have had a conversation about how I feel about playing a lesbian and possibly taking that role from somebody,” Kate continued. “But I’m done with not being honest about what my real opinions are, and I know the part was never offered to anybody else. In taking this part I had an opportunity to bring an LGBTQ story into living rooms.”
Kate has a good point. It’s not as common for lesbian actresses to play only lesbian parts — and that could be because there aren’t too many lesbian movie roles. But when it comes to men, it seems as if things are much more complicated. Just think about how much press Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal got after filming Brokeback Mountain, which was one of the most talked-about films of 2005.
Even Heath Ledger had issues with the reactions after the film was made. According to NME, Heath refused to make a speech at the Oscars due to some of the ridicule the film had gotten. Fans almost couldn’t believe these two actors would take on such different roles. “I mean, I remember they wanted to do an opening for the Academy Awards that year that was sort of joking about it,” Jake reportedly stated. “And Heath refused. I was sort of at the time, ‘Oh, okay … whatever.'”
“I’m always like: it’s all in good fun,” Jake continued. “And Heath said, ‘It’s not a joke to me – I don’t want to make any jokes about it.’ That’s the thing I loved about Heath. He would never joke. Someone wanted to make a joke about the story or whatever, he was like, ‘No. This is about love. Like, that’s it, man. Like, no.'”
Kate believes that more attitudes may change — and less stereotyping may take place — if more people opened up about it. Even Heath defending the film as a perceived straight man was important. Acting is all about transformation, and just because an actor has a different sexual preference off the set shouldn’t matter. Nor should directors worry that a gay actor can’t be versatile.
“I don’t intend to browbeat or take on Hollywood,” Kate said. “We’re just talking about young actors who might be considering joining this profession, and finding a way to make it more open. For there to be less judgment, discrimination and homophobia.”
This isn’t the first time that Kate Winslet has expressed her love and appreciation of the LGBTQ community. Kate is an ally, and she also portrays a lesbian in the movie Ammonite, playing opposite of Saoirse Ronan. She said that she knew that much like in Brokeback Mountain, people might feel strange having straight women play the roles of lesbians. That said, she felt like having more lesbian stories may open up those possibilities along the way.
“It’s like I said before, the balance is off, right?” she told Attitude. “I mean, let’s be real here: there are a lot more known straight actors in the mainstream than there are LGBTQ actors, and we definitely need to right that balance. But I hope that by being a part of this film and normalising a same-sex connection in this way, I really, really hope it will inspire LGBTQ performers to feel … just to feel more celebrated, and to hopefully change this.”
The more who speak up about it, the more normalized it’ll become. Being gay shouldn’t be something that young actors have to hide. Nor should they worry about being typecast as a certain role, which might damage their career. Actors will know what roles feel right to them, so they should get the chance to audition no matter what.