Straight actors playing LGBTQ+ roles – it’s certainly a divisive topic, particularly in recent years with Hollywood coming under pressure to address its historic representation and diversity issues.
In 2019, Taron Egerton received criticism for playing the role of Elton John in Rocketman, which Elton himself later waved off as ‘all bullshit’. Rami Malek and James Corden have also recently attracted criticism for their portrayal of gay characters, with some feeling that these roles should instead be portrayed by LGBTQ+ actors.
The latest debate is over whether straight actor Theo James should play George Micahel in a possible future biopic after the White Lotus star expressed interest in the role on Bravo talk show Watch What Happens Live.
Asked whether he’d considered playing the late Wham! frontman, James replied: ‘Oh yeah, I would love that, he’s an icon. He’s a lot of Greek, and I’m a lot of Greek. Put that Greek together, and you get falafel.’
The reply soon drew criticism from American singer Adam Lambert when American LGBT magazine The Advocate shared the story on Instagram.
Commenting on the post, the Queen + Adam Lambert lead vocalist wrote: ‘Yay another straight man playing a gay icon,’ – followed by an eye roll emoji.
Many of the top-liked responses in the comments mirrored Lambert’s words. One user wrote ‘there are more than enough deserving queer actors that could get this role!’, while another spoke of how a straight actor playing the icon would be ‘a major slap in the face’ as Michael went through ‘SO much as a gay artist’.
A few user also thought that James would make a good fit for the role. One wrote ‘this is a great casting decision’, with James having ‘the look, charisma and the acting talent to nail this’.
The conversation began after the Daily Mail released a story claiming that the George Michael estate had endorsed a film about the late singer’s life.
However, Michael’s estate was quick to issue a response denying their involvement. ‘To all of George’s Lovelies, fans and lovers of his music, a story has been published stating that George Michael’s family has endorsed a so-called ‘biopic’ about his life,’ it wrote.
‘On behalf of George’s family and [George Michael Entertainment] we want to make it clear that there is no truth whatsoever in this story, we know nothing about this project and will not be endorsing it in any way.’
Whether a film about Michael’s life is in the works remains to be seen. What’s certain is that this debate remains far from over.
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