Ben Whishaw: I Was Afraid to Come Out for a Long Time

8.5.2014

By Alex Panisch

'I had a lot of fear in doing it for a long time... I’m not sure I know why.'

Photo: Strand Releasing

British actor Ben Whishaw discussed his coming out in a poignant interview with the UK’s Sunday Times [paywall]. This engagement with the press is notable, as the Cloud Atlas actor has been up until now notoriously cagey about his sexuality. 

Whishaw opened up about his sexuality three years ago in Out, but then retreated and did not speak openly about his being gay until last year—a year after he entered into a civil partnership with Australian composer Mark Bradshaw. 

Whishaw said that his fears about coming out were very much unfounded. “Everyone was surprisingly lovely,” said the Skyfall actor. “I hadn’t anticipated that they would be, but they were. It takes courage [to come out] and people have to do it in their own time.” 

“It’s hard to have a conversation with people you’ve known your whole life about a very intimate thing," admitted Whishaw in a way that feels a little pointed. “It’s massively weighted with all sorts of stuff, whatever the wider world is saying… it’s an intimate and private and difficult conversation for most people. 

These questions about Whishaw’s sexuality aren’t out of left field: In his role in director Hong Khaou’s Lilting, Whishaw plays a man who must help his dead lover’s mother come to terms with her son’s homosexuality. On whether he was able to relate to someone who felt they couldn’t come out to their mother, Whishaw told the Times"It is hard, I applaud anyone who does it. There is so much tension around doing something like that, that maybe you’re not quite thinking rationally. You can say absurd things because you are in a panic."

When asked about coming out to his own parents, the actor slated to play Freddie Mercury in an upcoming Queen biopic stated:

"I identify with the character in Lilting in as much as I had a lot of fear in doing it for a long time...it takes courage and people have to do it in their own time, which is a negotiation you see happening in the film.”

Lilting Opens in Select Theaters Sept. 26. Watch the trailer below:

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