Viggo Mortensen has responded to criticism over his decision to cast himself as a gay man in his upcoming film Falling.
The Lord of the Rings and Green Book star is making his debut as writer and director with the film, about a married gay man who takes care of his conservative and homophobic father after he starts to exhibit symptoms of dementia.
Mortensen stars as lead character John, with Lance Henricksen as his father, Terry Chen as his husband, and Laura Linney as his sister.
But Mortensen’s decision to cast himself as a gay man has led to criticism, given ongoing backlash in Hollywood over straight, cisgender actors taking LGBTQ roles.
Speaking with Britain’s The Times, Mortensen clapped back at such criticism, noting that while it’s “healthy” to discuss LGBTQ representation, his decision to play a gay man wasn’t a “gimmick.”
“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,” he 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.”
Mortensen 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 previously addressed the controversy surrounding the film, telling Reuters last month that he didn’t write John as gay for “a gimmick, anchor or some trigger.”
Instead, while writing a scene featuring a phone call between John and his partner, he thought, “What if it’s not a wife? What if it’s a husband?”
“I’ll try that. I’ll write the next scene and see how it feels,” he said. “If it doesn’t work or feels somehow not right for the story, then I won’t use it, but I liked it.”
Falling releases December 4. Watch the trailer below:
Kristen Stewart, who is bisexual, recently said that only requiring LGBTQ actors to take LGBTQ roles was a “slippery slope.”
“That means I could never play another straight character if I’m going to hold everyone to the letter of this particular law,” she told Variety last week. “I think it’s such a gray area.”
Both LGBTQ activists and those working in Hollywood have been urging greater representation in front of and behind the camera.
In September, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced major changes for the annual Academy Awards, requiring greater LGBTQ representation both in the narratives depicted and in those working in front of and behind the camera.
The rules require producers to make diversity and representation a priority for future productions by hiring more LGBTQ people, women, people of color, and those with cognitive or physical disabilities.
Halle Berry recently said she would no longer consider a role as a trans man in an upcoming film, saying “the transgender community should undeniably have the opportunity to tell their own stories.”
In 2018, Scarlett Johansson pulled out of biopic Rub and Tug after backlash over her casting as its trans male lead — criticism that heightened after she initially dismissed the controversy.
And Darren Criss, who won an Emmy for playing a gay spree killer in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, said he would no longer play gay characters “to make sure I won’t be another straight boy taking a gay man’s role.”
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