Stanley Tucci weighed in on the debate about straight actors portraying gay characters in a new interview with BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs on Saturday.
Tucci, who is married to actress Felicity Blunt, said he believes that as an actor, “you’re supposed to play different people.”
“You just are. That’s the whole point of it,” he told the program.
Tucci has portrayed gay characters in 2006’s “The Devil Wears Prada” and in the 2020 film “Supernova” alongside Oscar-winner Colin Firth. He went on to say, “Obviously, I believe that’s fine.”
“I am always very flattered when gay men come up to me and talk to me about ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ or they talk about ‘Supernova,’ and they say that, ‘It was just so beautiful,’ you know, ‘You did it the right way,’” he said. “Because often, it’s not done the right way.”
For decades, Hollywood has cast actors in heterosexual relationships for gay roles.
Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal played lovers in “Brokeback Mountain,” and Cate Blanchett fell in love with a shopgirl in “Carol.” Benedict Cumberbatch recently played a sexually repressed cowboy in Netflix’s 2021 Oscar contender “The Power of the Dog,” and previously played Alan Turing in “The Imitation Game.”
While Ledger, Gyllenhaal, Blanchett and Cumberbatch were all nominated for Academy Awards for their performances, former late night host James Corden, who is married to a woman, was criticized for his performance as a flamboyant faded Broadway star in “The Prom,” with critics calling his performance “insulting” and “offensively miscast.”
Minority actors have long spoken out about their struggles to get cast in Hollywood, even as producers say they can’t find the right actors for projects.
Conversations around inclusivity in casting transgender actors in transgender roles have also become pertinent, and casting cisgender actors for those roles has recently fallen out of popular practice.
CNN previously reported that LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD says casting this way “perpetuates this belief that trans people aren’t real.”
Straight actors playing gay roles, however, isn’t considered to be as “brave” in recent years as it’s been in the past, according to critic Guy Lodge, who told The Guardian in a 2021 interview: “The idea of being ‘brave’ for playing gay is going away.”
“I think that in itself is seen as fairly unremarkable now,” he added.
For the most part, Tucci and Firth received positive reviews for their performances in “Supernova,” where they played a longtime couple grappling with the dire challenge of early-onset dementia.