New York Magazine Thinks Ben Whishaw Is Straight -- But Is He?

1.26.2010

By Noah Michelson

In a conversation titled "Dancy and Whishaw, Heterosexual British Actors, Sometimes Hug," in the latest issue of New York Magazine, Ben Whishaw and his co-star Hugh Dancy are asked, "You're both straight. Did you have any hesitations about taking explicit gay roles?"

While this might seem like a typical enough way to start an interview with two young, handsome actors starring in The Pride, now playing at NYC's Lucille Lortel Theatre, about the contrasting experiences of gay men in 1958 and 2008, there's one small problem: Ben Whishaw has never explicitly stated that he is straight.

In fact, in our February feature story the 29-year-old actor, who has previously starred as Bob Dylan in Todd Hayne's I'm Not There, as poet John Keats in Jane Campion's Bright Star, and just finished up playing a man who takes a break from his boyfriend only to fall in love with woman in Cock at London's Royal Court Theater, eschews labels all together.

"Maybe it's subconscious, I don't know," he told writer Gareth McLean. "It's intriguing to me that these parts come along. Of course the choices you make express something about you to the world, and of course the work I do is all about me, but rather than me standing up and making statements about myself and things, I'd prefer to let the work do the speaking."

When McLean asks Whishaw about the importance of young gay people having positive role models, the actor's ambiguous stance lifts a bit: "I really agree with that, and I feel in my heart that it's important, but I don't quite know yet the way to go about that. Maybe that's the transitional thing I feel I'm in the middle of at the moment. It's something I think about, but it's important for me to do it at the time that's right for me. And I'm not there yet."

So the verdict is still out (or not) -- and yet -- while maybe it's inappropriate to claim Whishaw for our team at this time, from where we're standing and after hearing what he's had to say, we certainly wouldn't call him "straight." But this is just one more example of the choppy, complicated channels young actors (and old ones, too) are forced to navigate when trying to live their lives in and out of the spotlight in a world where admitting you're queer can cost you everything. We hope that those who've made the leap and came out and lived to tell about it will provide inspiration for those who are still worried about what it'll mean for their futures and their bank accounts and we look forward to a time when the assumption that an actor is straight isn't left unrefuted because the alternative is too scary and, ultimately, too destructive.

To read our full story on Ben Whishaw, head to Out.com.

-- NOAH MICHELSON

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