Catching Up With Harry Hamlin


By Phillip B. Crook

Actor Harry Hamlin dinged the cultural radar with his overtly sexual gay character in 1982's Making Love, only to later become People's Sexiest Man Alive in 1987. After taking some time off to play, the stay-at-home dad (he has two daughters with wife Lisa Rina) is back with a book, Full Frontal Nudity, and a reality show, Harry Loves Lisa, which premiered this week. In that spirit, Out asked Harry what else he loves from his intriguing past.

Out: Harry loves...acting projects with sexy titles, like Sex, Lies & Obsession; Oh, Baby; Night Sins; Laguna Heat'
Harry Hamlin: Well, actually, those titles I did not pick, and I would have picked different titles if I had been a part of that creative process. So, Harry does not like projects with sexy titles.

Harry loves...Bart McGuire.
Was that the name of the character in Making Love?

Yes. Did you like playing that him? He is such an important gay character.
His last name was really McGuire? I never realized he was Irish. Well, that was a long time ago but the thing I remember most was that the studio kept wanting to cut and change the script. It was kind of an ongoing battle to make it realistic and gritty.

Making Love has a lot in common with Brokeback Mountain in that it caused so much hoopla about straight actors playing gay roles -- and particularly characters who have sex on screen.
That all changed with Philadelphia, I think. Our movie was made before the whole AIDS situation had even been discovered, so it was not a part of how people perceived the gay community then. There was a kind of innocence to the world we inhabited that hasn't been there since. There's always this thing in the background now. When Tom did Philadelphia, people began to accept that an actor is an actor and you can play any part. Before that, when we did Making Love, it was unconscionable that a straight actor would play a gay role as blatantly as we did. It hadn't been done before. Perception blended us with our characters. We had to be gay or we wouldn't have done it. I always found that kind of amusing. I never shied away from that. I never said, 'You're wrong.' I'd say 90% of the people who saw that film thought Michael and I had to be gay.

Did that affect your choices about future films?
Yeah. I don't go so far as to connect the dots but Making Love is the last studio picture I ever made. You want to connect some dots there, you can. I was never able to make another studio picture after that.

Harry loves...Full Frontal Nudity.
I'm most excited about this book. I got stopped at the Canadian border and they found in their computer system that I had been arrested 40 years ago on a felony narcotics charge, and it's true that I was arrested, but the charges were dropped. I wasn't convicted. But they didn't have that little part of the puzzle. So I was dealing with this Canadian thing and thinking about all these things from my life I'd forgotten about. And these stories began to come up. I wanted to chart what had led me, at the age of 50, to be considered a hardcore felon by these Canadians. I call it a romp, not a memoir or autobiography.

And the title comes from your nude scene in Equus when you were 25?
It's funny because I wrote about 30 pages and there happened to be this literary agent who wanted to have lunch with me, who knew Lisa. I sent it to him and he asked, 'What are you going to call your book?' And I looked right at him and said, 'Full Frontal Nudity.' It came out of nowhere.

Would you have had any advice for Daniel Radcliffe when he played the same naked role in Equus?
I suppose there are drugs you can take now to counteract any sort of negative effects that happen because you're scared to death.

Were you scared to death?
Of course. I'm not an exhibitionist in that way. I tried to describe in my book the sensation of having to take my clothes off leading up to that moment. In rehearsal the director insisted that we not take our clothes off until opening night. My wife saw Daniel do it in London but I never had a chance. She said he was great, not that he needed any advice from me.

Harry loves...being 1987's Sexiest Man Alive.
That was weird. I don't think anybody who finds himself there loves that.

It doesn't boost your confidence at all?
Confidence of that nature doesn't come from the outside, no matter how many times someone tells you you're sexy or how beautiful the girls are that you screw. It doesn't come from there.