If They Were Gay, Who Would Care?
By Shana Naomi Krochmal
Here�s the bad news about Hollywood big shots� fears: They�re not completely unfounded. The entertainment-industrial complex is a tangled web of financiers, distributors and studios, producers and directors, entertainment media, and, of course, actors and the advisers guiding their every move. As Bob Sugar, Jay Mohr�s shark of an agent, yells in Jerry Maguire, �It�s not show friends; it�s show business.�
�Emotionally, I think 90% of the industry supports actors being able to live true to who they are,� says Chuck James, a partner at the Gersh Agency, who represents talent like Mena Suvari and Lost�s Rodrigo Santoro. �But there are fewer movies being made, and the last thing executives want to hear is about how many risks they have to take.� At the end of the day, every actor serves at the pleasure of the producers, whose main goal is to make money�not foment social change.
So in the name of changing society, here�s a blueprint for residents of the closet�glass or not�who are looking for a way out. It�s based on the best advice Hollywood�s elite would offer on and off the record.
1. Be a woman. Everyone agrees it�d be easier for a big-name lady to make the transition, and there are more and better examples proving them right. (Portia de Rossi hasn�t been considered scandalous because of her relationship with Ellen DeGeneres, and the bisexual confessions of Cynthia Nixon or Angelina Jolie certainly haven�t hurt their careers.)
2. Failing that, be the right kind of man, which first and foremost requires that you�re already a big star. �Box office and ratings and awards are power,� said one agent who asked not to be named. �Once those things happen, if you can�t live anymore in the closet, come out.�
3. Be a great actor. �If Jake Gyllenhaal plays a murderer, people know he�s not,� says Simon Halls. �If a gay leading man wants to kiss a woman in a romantic comedy, if he�s a good enough actor, people will suspend disbelief.�
4. Don�t overcompensate. Halls says the key to his client Neil Patrick Harris�s successful coming-out was that �he�d never been one of those people who brought women to premieres and said he was straight.�
5. Don�t get caught. Better to make a decisive move than tentatively (or drunkenly) test the waters in hopes the decision will be made for you. (And in case it doesn�t, it should go without saying: Don�t get arrested!)
6. Make sure your publicist is savvy to community politics. Ten years ago publications like Out and our sister magazine The Advocate were destinations of choice for self-outing; today you could launch a bidding war between People and Oprah. �When Johnny Mathis came out [in a 1982 Us Magazine article], black people screamed, �Why didn�t you tell us first?� � says Kevin Taylor, a longtime BET producer. So don�t forget where you came from, or the people poised to be your biggest defenders.
The idea of making a similar list a year ago would have been laughable, so it�s impossible�but strangely encouraging�to imagine what kind of career move will be considered common sense at this time in 2008. �It�s just not somewhere we�ve ever gone before,� Halls says.