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"If I didn't think it was a good idea, I wouldn't do it," Mortensen said of playing a gay character in his film Falling

By Alexia Fernández
December 01, 2020 06:40 PM
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'Green Book' premiere, Rome Film Festival, Italy - 24 Oct 2018
Viggo Mortensen
| Credit: Fabio Mazzarella/Sintesi/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

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," the actor continued. "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.

The conversation surrounding whether heterosexual actors should play gay characters has been building in recent years.

In December 2018, Glee star Darren Criss said he would no longer play gay characters after his breakout role as Blaine Anderson in Ryan Murphy's hit show.

“There are certain [queer] roles that I’ll see that are just wonderful,” he told Bustle at the time. “But I want to make sure I won’t be another straight boy taking a gay man’s role.”

Criss, 33, has also played Andrew Cunanan in American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace and the role of Hedwig in the Broadway musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Playing those roles has “been a real joy,” Criss said at the time, but he revealed he no longer felt comfortable doing it anymore, which he said was “unfortunate.”

“The reason I say that is because getting to play those characters is inherently a wonderful dramatic experience,” he said. “It has made for very, very compelling and interesting people.”

Last month, Kristen Stewart told Variety she thinks about the topic “all the time” during an interview for her Hulu film Happiest Season.

“I would never want to tell a story that really should be told by somebody who’s lived that experience,” Stewart said. “Having said that, it’s a slippery slope conversation because that means I could never play another straight character if I’m going to hold everyone to the letter of this particular law.”

She continued, “I think it’s such a gray area. There are ways for men to tell women’s stories or ways for women to tell men’s stories. But we need to have our finger on the pulse and actually have to care.”

"You kind of know where you’re allowed. I mean, if you’re telling a story about a community and they’re not welcoming to you, then f--- off. But if they are, and you’re becoming an ally and a part of it and there’s something that drove you there in the first place that makes you uniquely endowed with a perspective that might be worthwhile, there’s nothing wrong with learning about each other. And therefore helping each other tell stories. So I don’t have a sure-shot answer for that."