If They Were Gay, Who Would Care?

4.10.2007

By Shana Naomi Krochmal

Out took the entertainment industry's temperature in an attempt to determine whether the long-held assumption'that an out gay male actor could never enjoy a career as a leading man'was still true, or whether times have finally changed.

Here's the one thing nearly everyone interviewed agreed on: We could never have had this conversation two years ago. Sure, Will & Grace had proved that gays could have mainstream feasibility. But it wasn't until last year that queers finally broke the sound barrier: Brokeback Mountain won three Academy Awards and has now grossed $175 million worldwide. In fewer than five months Lance Bass, T.R. Knight, and Neil Patrick Harris all stepped up and out. More recently, Ellen hosted the Oscars to near-universal acclaim. So have we reached a Hollywood tipping point'or at least the final plateau right before the summit?

'I'm not trying to sound like a Pollyanna,' says Simon Halls, a gay partner at publicity powerhouse PMK/HBH, 'but I think what we're finding is that people are far more accepting than anyone would have given them credit for.'

So maybe what's standing between the A-list and the closet is not just a fear of the so-called American public'at least not of the female half, long considered to be more willing to accept gay stories and actors. To get the inside scoop, we contacted a number of Hollywood's biggest behind-the-scenes players, but many declined to discuss the topic with Out, even in the most general terms.

'No one wants to offend anyone,' explained one publicist, citing fears that a reader might assume a client is gay. 'And anyone who does have a [closeted] gay client wouldn't want their name out there either.' A spokesman from GQ wouldn't even entertain the question of whether a newly out gay actor could book their cover, saying only, 'That's just too hypothetical.'

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