Brendan Fraser is slated to star in a movie adaptation of The Whale, in which he will play a 600-pound reclusive gay man desperate to reconnect with his teen daughter.
With Darren Aronofsky directing, Fraser will play Charlie, who left his family for his male partner. But after his partner dies, Charlie spirals into grief – prompting him to seek out his 17-year-old daughter, according to Deadline.
The upcoming film is based on the off-Broadway production by Samuel Hunter, which opened in 2012 to critical acclaim and won the Drama Desk Award and the Lucille Lortel Award.
Fraser, who with his broad shoulders and gentle smile burst into the 1990s film scene headlining blockbuster franchises as well as critically-acclaimed comedies, took a hiatus from acting in the early 2000s.
It was the upshot of a series of personal struggles – his mother’s passing, various workplace injuries and being the victim of an alleged sexual assault – that launched him into a depression.
But The Mummy actor may not have timed his return to Hollywood well, coming in the throes of yet debate over whether straight, cisgender actors should be cast in LGBT+ roles.
Should straight actors play gay roles?
The seemingly never-ending controversy was reignited by a recent Radio Times interview with British screenwriter Russell T Davies, in which he explained why “authenticity” is key in casting gay roles.
It came just weeks after James Corden’s performance as a gay man in The Prom was compared to “gayface” by critics.
The debate continues to rumble, with often the loudest voices being straight people who can’t even correctly name the LGBT+ trailblazers given the big-screen treatment. Some compare casting gay people to casting cannibals, while others seem to push back for no reason other than petty outrage.
Countless straight actors have nabbed Oscars and other top film awards for playing LGBT+ characters. From Tom Hanks scoring his first Academy Award for 1994’s Philadelphia to more modern examples, such as Sean Penn winning Best Actor for his turn as Harvey Milk in 2009. Even Moonlight, which became the first LGBT-themed film to win Best Picture in 2017, was led by straight actors.
But in removing the opportunity for queer people to tell and be the voice and face of their own stories, critics say, LGBT+ representation has often been watered down, or “straight-washed”.
LGBT+ actors such as Andrew Rannells have even devised an ingenious test to gauge whether the queer roles they are offered are authentic and not just a “punchline”, while Jim Parsons urged filmmakers to not squarely offer queer roles to queer actors, but ensure roles are “open to all” rather than a select few.
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