'Milk' exposes paradox for screen's leading men

"Gay people must be 'out' to be counted."

Mark Caro writes:
Gus Van Sant's "Milk" isn't just a mainstream-minded Oscar candidate; it's also a rallying cry. With Sean Penn starring as Harvey Milk, the openly gay San Francisco supervisor who was gunned down in 1978, the movie (which opens Wednesday) makes its message clear: Gay people must be "out" to be counted. It's a timely theme given California's passage of anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 this month, but there's also a certain irony: Here's a broadly targeted movie with marquee actors (James Franco, Josh Brolin and Emile Hirsch co-star), yet not only is none of the featured players openly gay, there isn't one openly gay leading man in all of Hollywood.

Even as gay people have become far more prominent and comfortable in culture and everyday life in the 30 years since Milk's death, not a single current A-list movie actor is "out." Could it be that big movie stars simply don't swing that way? That lead actors defy all percentages and likelihood to remain a strictly heterosexual crowd? Or is the more logical explanation that while Hollywood preaches openness, it is fearful to practice it? "Hollywood does not like anything that's going to threaten its bottom line," said Michael Jensen, editor of afterelton.com, a Web site devoted to gay and bisexual men in entertainment. "The idea of a gay leading man in a movie that's going to have a budget around $100 million—getting a studio to be the first one to take that chance is a challenging thing to do." As for the actors, Jensen continued, "there are already so many reasons for a casting director to turn a person down, and being an openly gay actor trying to get a romantic lead role, you're just giving them another reason." READ MORE

H/T: We Love Soaps

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