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Todd Holland, Don Roos, Gay Actors, and The Closet

Todd HollandFirst, openly gay film director Todd Holland (right) is accused of telling non-100 percent hetero performers to keep their sexuality hidden in the closet. Several days later, another openly gay film director, Don Roos, was reportedly even more blatant about the idea of keeping actors hanging in the closet. Adding insult to injury, those statements were made at a film festival named Outfest, Los Angeles' annual gay & lesbian cinema smorgasbord.

Holland was quoted as saying that young gay actors "should stay in the closet." He later wrote a piece stating that his "damning words were: 'If you are that .002 percent [of actors who may be superstar material] ... I can't tell you to come out."

"I never said stay in the closet. ..."

(In the LA Weekly, Patrick Range McDonald's asserts that Holland remarked "that when young, gay actors ask for his advice on whether or not they should come out in Hollywood, 'I say, "stay in the closet."'")

"I know where you're coming from," retorted filmmaker Kirby Dick after hearing Holland's remarks (whichever they were, I wasn't there), "but it's a regressive argument." Dick, whose latest documentary, Outrage, focuses on closeted gay politicians – most of whom are publicly anti-gay – also asserted that if "an A-list actor came out, it would have more impact on the culture than an A-list politician."

Don RoosDon Roos (right), the writer-director of The Opposite of Sex and Happy Endings, doesn't think so.

As reported by James F. Mills in Notes from Hollywood, at Outfest's special program “Conversation with Don Roos” the filmmaker stated: “I don't think actors should be out at the level of press, radio, TV and film.”

Roos went on to explain that he'd never cast Mel Gibson or Tom Cruise in a movie because of the negative publicity they've received of late. "When I see Tom Cruise," Roos was quoted as saying, "I think of Scientology, jumping on a sofa and getting into a fight with Brooke Shields."

“I prefer more mystery. I don't want to know about [the actor's] political views, whether they're gay or straight."

He later added, “I have a deep respect for homophobia [in American society] and I don't think it will ever go away. I don't think actors coming out is going to help end homophobia. I think doctors, teachers and lawyers coming out will end homophobia.”

Also: "We're a country of bigots. I don't want that to go away entirely. We wouldn't be interesting anymore."

Too bad Kirby Dick wasn't around to point out the (regressive) inanity of Roos' argument.

In any case, sofa-jumping or no, Tom Cruise's Valkyrie earned more than US$200 million worldwide, while Mel Gibson, hate him or no, has just been cast in The Beaver, opposite Jodie Foster, who'll also direct. (And whose acting career, if stay-in-the-closeters are to be believed, should have been ruined now that she's out.)

So, wouldn't Roos hire Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins because of their liberal political views? What about Clint Eastwood and Bruce Willis and their Republican stance? Should actors then be unwilling to voice their personal opinions about anything?

Also, considering his remarks, Roos would likely never cast Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, and all those other performers whose hetero relationships, families, adoptions, affairs, and divorces are discussed ad nauseam in print and online publications the world over. There's no "mystery" there.

I can only assume that Roos' line about his having a "deep respect for homophobia" was merely a case of poorly chosen words, but the "We're a country of bigots..." remark was in bad taste, even if in jest. Just ask any Californian gay couple who didn't get the chance to tie the knot before Proposition 8 became law if they agree that bigotry should not "go away entirely" so the United States can remain "interesting."

Dorothy ArznerBut what bothers me the most about this pro-closet – i.e., pro-dishonesty, shame, fear – attitude is that it's unabashedly hypocritical. After all, it wasn't that long ago when film directors like Holland and Roos could never have been openly gay, let alone openly married to another guy. Just ask Dorothy Arzner (right), Irving Rapper, Mitchell Leisen, George Cukor, and dozens of others like them, many (most?) of whom remained deeply closeted until death.

See also an Entertainment Weekly story in which T. R. Knight, while explaining why he left Grey's Anatomy, claims that the show's executive producer Shonda Rhimes didn't want him to come out of closet at the time of the Isaiah Washington blowout. (Rhimes denies Knight's version of the story.)

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