Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken out on his new role in Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog.
Cumberbatch is already getting Oscar buzz for his role in the upcoming western as a gay Montana cattle rancher in the 1920s. But not everyone is keen on straight actors playing gay roles, and this is something Cumberbatch was aware of when he took the role, and he talked to IndieWire about why he ultimately decided the role was for him.
Cumberbatch said he was drawn to this specific role because the character isn’t black or white about his sexuality, and instead keeps his private life and public life separate.
“I feel very sensitive about representation, diversity, and inclusion,” Cumberbatch told IndieWire. “One of the appeals of the job was the idea that in this world, with this specific character, there was a lot that was private, hidden from view.” That’s something he can relate to.
“It wasn’t done without thought,” he continued. “I also feel slightly like, is this a thing where our dance card has to be public? Do we have to explain all our private moments in our sexual history? I don’t think so.” All right, then, Mr. Cumberbatch, keep your secrets.
Joking aside, Cumberbatch does have a point. While it is important to provide real-life queer people with jobs in the industry and nothing goes as far as authenticity, there shouldn’t be a demand for actors to publicly state their sexuality before they accept acting roles.
The debate over whether straight actors should play gay has been raging especially hard over the last year or so. In an interview early this year, British TV mogul Russell T. Davies spoke about why he cast queer actors in all his queer roles for his latest show It’s a Sin.
“I’m not being woke about this, but I feel strongly that if I cast someone in a story, I am casting them to act as a lover, or an emy, or someone on drugs or a criminal or a saint,” he told the Radio Times, “They are not there to ‘act gay’ because ‘acting gay’ is a bunch of codes ofr a performance. It’s about authenticity, the taste of 2020 (and 2021).”
Everyone from Neil Patrick Harris, to Jim Parsons, to Ben Platt has weighed in on the issue, with some saying they’re in favor of straight actors playing gay, but many saying they’d like to see that trend come to an end.
This isn’t Cumberbatch’s first time playing gay in a big movie. In 2014, he played gay computer genius Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, and was nominated for an Academy Award, a BAFTA, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a Golden Globe for the role.