Benedict Cumberbatch Reveals Thoughts On Straight Actors Playing Gay Roles

by : Cameron Frew on : 08 Sep 2021 10:53
Benedict Cumberbatch Reveals Thoughts On Straight Actors Playing Gay RolesPA Images

Benedict Cumberbatch has commented on the debate over whether straight actors should play gay roles in TV and film.

It’s been a prominent discussion in recent years amid calls for better, fairer representation on screen. While previous LGBTQ+ films attracted praise, whether it’s Philadelphia or Brokeback Mountain, the idea that playing a gay character is ‘brave’ has eroded, opening up the discourse over whether straight actors should take the roles at all.


The conversation is somewhat regularly revived, with Kristen Stewart previously describing it as a ‘grey area’ and James Corden being slammed for his ‘gross, offensive’ portrayal in The Prom.


Coming after The Power of the Dog‘s premiere at the Venice Film Festival, his new Western directed by Jane Campion, Cumberbatch spoke at the Telluride Film Festival about the challenges of playing Montana cattle rancher Phil and the debate. He also played a gay man in The Imitation Game, in which he starred as Alan Turing.

‘I feel very sensitive about representation, diversity, and inclusion. One of the appeals of the job was the idea that in this world, with this specific character, there was a lot that was private, hidden from view,’ he said, as per IndieWire.


‘It wasn’t done without thought. I also feel slightly like, is this a thing where our dance card has to be public? Do we have to explain all our private moments in our sexual history? I don’t think so. Jane chose us as actors to play those roles. That’s her question to answer.’

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog. (Netflix)Netflix

Speaking about his ambiguous chemistry with Kodi Smit-McPhee, he said, ‘I think when it’s non-verbal and intensely subtextual, when there are so many planes of intention and thoughts going on, you obviously want to take the audience in. You want them to believe what they’re seeing, but you also want to leave something to discover.’

The Power of the Dog hits cinemas on November 17 before arriving on Netflix on December 1


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Cameron Frew

Entertainment Editor at UNILAD. 2001: A Space Odyssey is the best film ever made, and Warrior is better than Rocky. That's all you need to know.

Topics: Film and TV, Benedict Cumberbatch, LGBTQ+, Now


  1. IndieWire

    Benedict Cumberbatch on Straight Actors Playing Gay in ‘Power of the Dog’: ‘It Wasn’t Done Without Thought’