Viggo Mortensen on playing a gay character: ‘I didn’t think it was a problem’

German premiere of the film "Falling

Viggo Mortensen has been on my sh-t list since 2016. He was promoting Captain Fantastic at the time, which meant he was giving a lot of interviews, and he was asked about the American election. Viggo spoke about his ideological purity (he’s one of those guys), said Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were equally bad, and that pure people of integrity needed to vote for Jill Stein. Cancelled. My hate for him grew with Green Book, one of the worst f–king movies and completely undeserving of its Oscars. Anyway, Viggo has a new movie called Falling. He plays a gay man with a husband. Viggo was asked about whether he thinks a cisgendered straight man like himself should play LGBTQ charcters and once again, Viggo said words.

Viggo Mortensen is defending his decision to portray a gay man in his upcoming film Falling. The 62-year-old actor spoke to The Times about the role of John, a gay man who invites his conservative father Willis to live with him and his husband, Eric (Terry Chen), when Willis experiences symptoms of dementia.

“Look, these are the times we’re living in, and I think it’s healthy that those issues are brought up,” Mortensen said. “The short answer is that I didn’t think it was a problem. And people then ask me, ‘Well what about Terry Chen, who plays my husband in the film, is he a homosexual?’ And the answer is I don’t know, and I would never have the temerity to ask someone if they were, during the casting process. And how do you know what my life is? You’re assuming that I’m completely straight. Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. And it’s frankly none of your business.”

He added, “I want my movie to work, and I want the character of John to be effective. So if I didn’t think it was a good idea, I wouldn’t do it.”

Mortensen has kept his personal life private throughout his career. The actor has been in a relationship with the Spanish actress Ariadna Gil for 11 years. He also has a 32-year-old son, Henry, from his 10-year marriage to punk singer Exene Cervenka. The two divorced in 1998.

[From People]

His answer is a whole-ass Scarlett Johansson mess. I mean, the way this is starting to work is that straight/cisgendered actors have to basically regulate themselves and really ask themselves if they’re comfortable “playing” an LGBTQ character or if that role should go to an LGBTQ actor. Viggo’s argument is that no one really KNOWS if he’s straight (he is) and that he’s fine with being cast as a gay character because… he thought it was a good idea, and if it wasn’t a good idea, he wouldn’t have done it??? Mess.

Photocall with Viggo Mortensen

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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38 Responses to “Viggo Mortensen on playing a gay character: ‘I didn’t think it was a problem’”

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  1. Snazzy says:

    Aragorn continues to disappoint

    • Oy_Hey says:

      He has gotten soooo problematic in his old age. When I was young I remember Viggo being this cool European polyglot that was nice everyone. Damn LTR marketing!

    • Becks1 says:

      We just watched those movies over the weekend and my H asked me – “is he canceled? I feel like he was canceled for some reason and I cant remember why.” And I guess this explains it. Is he the worst out there? no, but come on now, in 2020, we’re still having this convo about actors in Hollywood?

  2. Boogaloo Shrimp says:

    He’s an idiot, but I would still hate hit it.

  3. Case says:

    My feeling on this — as a white, bisexual, disabled woman — is that the only roles that MUST be played by people who identify the same as the character are people of color and disabled people. POC roles should (obviously) not be given to white actors, and it’s shameful when Hollywood has able-bodied actors playing disabled characters. People can’t change their skin tone or disability, and actively taking the few roles Hollywood writes for them away and giving them to people who have PLENTY of other opportunities is inexcusable.

    When it comes to sexuality…eh. You can’t “look” like your sexuality, and as long as LGBTQ actors are offered roles of different sexualities and given plenty of opportunities, I don’t have a problem with this. I know Viggo is an idiot, but I think he’s correct in saying we shouldn’t just assume certain people are straight. There are plenty of bisexual people, for example, who identify as such but have primarily dated one gender over the other, and constantly face erasure for it.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I think that’s a big part of the issue. Openly LGBTQ actors are still blacklisted and discriminated against.

      I would also argue (as a queer woman myself) that an LGBTQ person would bring more to a role like that than a straight person could even imagine. It is not the same.

      • Becks1 says:

        Your first sentence is why this kind of casting is problematic for me. It’s not that viggo “cant” play this kind of role – its more that there is still a problem of discrimination against LGBTQ actors and I think Hollywood still has a long way to go.

      • josephine says:

        But doesn’t that suggest that a straight person would bring “more” to a role in which the character is straight? I’m not staying that openly LGBTQ actors shouldn’t have a priority, but I’m worried that using that kind of reasoning justifies keeping LGBTQ actors out of the vast, vast majority of roles out there.

      • clomo says:

        I think if out of the closet gays got lots of straight roles it would make this less of an issue. The handicap thing is sad because they so rarely are cast. But My Left Foot was a great movie to me when I saw it years ago and is that not PC now? What would be nice if the head honchos weren’t all white men, everything would filter down from the top more evenly.

    • Malika says:

      I agree with your distinction. Playing another ethnic background usually ends up horrendous results (Joseph Fiennes immediately comes to mind as Michael Jackson, gasp emoji). Disabilities portrayed by able bodied actors are usually ham fisted. But sexuality can be portrayed by a vast array of actors. While I am sure Brokeback Mountain would still have been a great film with gay actors in the lead roles, I loved Ledger’s and Gillenhaal’s portrayals and I felt a genuine love and sexual attraction throughout the whole movie.

      The problem lies in the fact that we feel that openly queer actors can’t be a box office draw or convincingly portray heterosexual love or sexual attraction. It’s a limiting belief that stops queer actors from being able to step in a wider percentage of roles, and that is a big loss Hollywood and its audience.

    • sarah says:

      I agree, Case. Obviously, the issue is whether LGBTQ actors are able to get the same opportunities to play straight roles as for gay actors. However that does not mean it is automatically wrong for a straight actor to play a gay role – after all the flip side of that would be that a gay actor could not play a straight role and that is not a position that I think gay actors want (see Kristen Stewart’s comments the other day). I think it is an important question to ask though, and an actor taking on that kind of role has to ask themselves “am I the best actor to play this role?” and “am I taking away opportunities from other actors who should be playing this role and don’t have the same opportunities as me?”.

    • Nan says:

      Well said!

    • Ronaldinhio says:

      I’ m also disabled and bi but I’m currently in a relationship with a man. To the outside world I would look straight.
      I think this is how they will now all get around LGBTQAI+ inclusion but pretending the *may* be something we don’t know about

      This gives me the rage

  4. Angh says:

    As a gay Asian man I do think straight people should be able to play gay characters in the same way that gay actors should be able to play straight roles. I honestly find the whole conversation tiresome. It’s not the same as say playing a different race or cis actors playing trans.

    • booboocita says:

      Thanks, @Angh. As a bisexual Chicana, I grow tired of these discussions about sexuality. I’ll fight like hell for more Latinx representation in film and TV, and I’ll always go ballistic when I see Whites put on brown face, fake accents, and mustaches to play Latinx characters, but sexuality? I’ve always been Chicana, but at various points in my life, I’ve thought I was straight, I’ve been in committed lesbian relationships, and have now arrived at my comfortable medium. Sexuality is way too fluid for anyone to be locked into categories.

      • H says:

        Thank you, @booboocita. At one point in my life, I only dated men, then only women and identified as bisexual. Then, I came to realize after a lot of reading, I’m demi. I do not have a problem with Viggo playing a gay character. However, he is problematic in so many other ways. Ugh. He was my Aragorn,

    • Jayna says:

      I so agree.

    • BeeCee says:

      I agree.
      The way that I always look at movies in that the actor is exactly what they are doing. They are acting, and are portraying someone that is completely different from them in real life. That’s their job.
      A white actor playing a different race should never ever ever ever ever be done, but playing an openly gay character should not be off the table, just as a gay actor playing an openly straight character isn’t.
      Although Hollywood does has big time issues with white-washing/casting sh!t, (I may be naïve when saying this) but perhaps multiple gay actors did in fact audition for this role, but they didn’t perform in a way that Viggo did at his audition… maybe Viggo was just better in portraying the actor in a way the director and casting agents wanted.

    • Joe says:

      And as a gay male myself, I completely disagree with you. I don’t want this has-been getting applauded and Oscar-nominations for playing something that I get discriminated for on a daily basis. Viggo has never been rejected by a parent or beaten up at high school for being who he is. He couldn’t even fathom it.
      Even gays discriminate among themselves by who’s “masc” and who’s “straight-acting.” I’d prefer a queer actor portray this character.

  5. Lunasf17 says:

    We don’t truly know his sexuality so IDK. We don’t force people to disclose their sexuality for other jobs and allow or deny them based on that (or we shouldn’t anyways) so I don’t necessarily think acting is any different. Like should we force that someone prove they are gay or bi before playing a gay character?! That seems too invasive to me.

    • megs283 says:

      I agree.

      • OriginalLeigh says:

        Agreed. Viggo is problematic but he raised a valid point. We can never really presume to know anyone’s sexuality (even if we are aware of their public dating history). I also think he’s straight but I can’t know that for sure and he shouldn’t forced to confirm either way.

    • Upsanddowns says:

      Agree

    • PS says:

      1000000000% agreed

    • Kristen says:

      Totally agree with this.

    • liz says:

      Totally agree with this. I’m very curious to see Colin Firth & Stanley Tucci in Supernova next month. They portray a gay couple dealing with early onset dementia. Both actors are married to women, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything (my sister-in-law is bisexual and she has been married to a woman for as long as it has been legal in the US). It is no one’s business how anyone identifies, unless they choose to make that information public.

  6. J ferber says:

    I agree with Angh. Rupert Everett has played straight characters with all his hotness and beauty intact. He’s also played gay characters wonderfully well. It used to be a mark of courage for a straight man to play a gay one. Heath Ledger got props back in the day (also hate) for his role in Brokeback Mountain. Yes, Viggo was an asshole about Jill Stein and I know that still rankles. Some gay actors are, unfortunately, still in the closet and might not play a gay role.
    Obviously, it would have been better to have a proud gay actor in the role. I get the anger of gay people over this, since it does bother me that Mrs. Maisel is played by a non-Jewish actress. I have Jewish family members who are not bothered by this, though. So I do see both viewpoints.

  7. Em says:

    This is absurd. Sexuality as in who you choose to sleep with and gender identity should serve no role in casting. I truly think this is insanity. This is acting….an art form, of which many actors pride themselves on being able to become a different character. So straight actors should only play straight characters and queer should only be able to play queer characters? What kind of dull nonsense is this? Race is a separate issue. Not everyone is open about their sexuality and it’s nobody’s business. Again, this is absurd.

    • clomo says:

      Yes, Neil Patrick Harris played a straight guy, even a sex scene in Gone Girl and was great, I heard no complaints, should he have not accepted the role? Of course not. This should happen more often, (I think it does a lot still more than we really know with closeted actors) then there wouldn’t be discrimination complaints.

  8. GuestwithCat says:

    Hell I’ve been married to a man for over 20 years and only dated men and even I can’t say for sure I’m 100% heterosexual. I am beginning to think sexual orientation falls on a spectrum of some kind anyway and I’m not even sure it stays consistent through an entire lifetime.

    I think it’s only been since my lifetime that people in the US, at least, are getting the opportunity to openly work on figuring such things out.

    I’ve seen plenty of gay actors and actresses play straight characters and I would not want them to suddenly be shut out of roles they’re suited for, just because their private sex life doesn’t match that of their character’s.

    Also, I would imagine some LGBTQ actors and actresses don’t want to pigeonhole themselves into roles that focus on the ramifications of their sexual orientation, anyway.

    All that being said, was HE the best they could get? I think if there were better actors, gay actors, who were denied a chance at this role because they wanted to cast a big movie name and attract people curious to see Viggo “act gay” then that does open up an ugly can of worms. I think that’s an ugly possibility and for that reason, I would have to err on the side of caution here and support those wanting to see a role like this to to a gay actor. I do question why, in an industry with an abundance of gay actors looking for work, why they didn’t go with an actor who does have the lived experience to help bring to life the nuances of the character’s story.

  9. Veronica S. says:

    I think it’s a complex issue. There is certainly an issue with blacklisting of LGBT+ celebrities in Hollywood. LGBT+ people can be pushed out of roles that may otherwise go to them due to prejudice in the industry. However, I don’t think he’s entirely wrong to suggest there’s an inherent problem presuming a right to somebody’s sexuality in order to let them access a role because, well, the very existence of blacklisting in Hollywood means there are people hostile to homosexuals there. That’s essentially requiring somebody to out their self to a larger community, including people who are strangers they may not be able to trust. LGBT+ status isn’t like race or ethnicity where you may be able to procure some information just from physical appearance.

    So I guess…even if I’m not a fan of Viggo’s previous behavior in terms of politics or social justice issues, and while he’s not the person I think he’d speak on them, I do think there’s a potential danger in starting down a line of thinking that “only x can play x.” There are some situations where I think that’s entirely valid, but I’d be cautious presuming that for everything because that’s a kind of “othering” of minorities under a different name. Ideally, the future we should create is one where things like race, gender, and sexuality have very little influence on whether somebody is good for a role unless something about it demands it.

  10. equality says:

    Neil Patrick Harris played a convincing straight guy on How I Met Your Mother. Eric Stonestreet was convincing as a gay man on Modern Family. If the actors are comfortable with the role, there doesn’t seem to be a problem. The ones that really annoy me are the fake Native Americans.

  11. bitchyarchitect says:

    Gah- he was so hot once… Remember that terrible Gwyneth Paltrow movie where he asks Michael Douglas if he should keep f*cking his wife? SO HOT! But he has really shown himself to just be a completely arrogant and ignorant d*ck. There are so many other celebrities who have gracefully answered this question, something like “I wasn’t educated and wouldn’t do that now, won’t do it again. I regret the choice…” couldn’t he just copy one of those?

  12. FilmTurtle says:

    We don’t know if he’s secretly bi, sure, but he clearly has no problem letting us know about his relationships with women. He isn’t correcting the record in any way. We can safely assume he’s straight. Geez.

    Anyway, it’s fair to ask whether casting a straight (presumably) actor in a gay role is taking away an opportunity for an LGBT actor. There is NOT a level playing field. I mean, he could have said, “We reached out to a few openly gay/bi actors and had them read, but they weren’t the right fit.” He’d still get side-eye for casting himself, but at least we’d know they put in the effort.

    Or he could say, “No, I had to cast myself in this role to secure financing. Yeah, it took away an opportunity for a gay/bi actor, but here’s what we did to try and make up for that…”

    • TaraBest says:

      I think you summed up the core issue very well. You also provide much better potential answers to the questions. I think it’s fair to be questioning producers/directors etc. about casting diversity when it comes to these roles, and I think they should be carefully considering these things when making their choices.

      I think most people are in agreement that sexuality shouldn’t automatically preclude someone from playing a role. I do think that the people making the casting choices should be looking for gay/bi/pan etc. actors though, as they are still marginalized and excluded from much of the acting jobs on offer. If they don’t find the fit there you can just say so! There are very valid reasons other than an actor’s (presumed) sexual identity that would factor in to choosing them for a role.

  13. Jumpingthesnark says:

    He is so smoking hot, still. Maybe that makes the disappointment over his problematic stuff all the more disappointing…..

  14. Tony says:

    Jared Leto the greatest actor in history of humanity won a Best Supporting Actor playing a trans gay character in Dallas Buyer’s Club. He went through a lot of hoops researching the role. I remember trans community had issue with them not using a trans actor

  15. Maryanna says:

    I think this is important for the transgender community, but i think a straight man can play a gay man without it being a problem. If I were the one to draw the line, that’s where I’d put it