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Cate Blanchett defends straight actors being cast in LGBTQ roles

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Susan Devaney
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Cate Blanchett has defended straight actors playing gay roles in film and TV.

In recent months, Hollywood has been criticised for giving LGBTQ roles to straight actors. But critically-acclaimed actress Cate Blanchett has defended straight actors playing gay characters and said she will “fight to the death” for the right to suspend disbelief.

Blanchett, who played a lesbian woman in 2015’s Carol, completely disagrees with the notion that an actor can only form a true connection with a character if they have shared experiences. In short, she believes it defies the point of acting.

“It also speaks to something that I’m quite passionate about in storytelling generally, but in film specifically, which is that film can be quite a literal medium,” she said

“And I will fight to the death for the right to suspend disbelief and play roles beyond my experience. I think reality television and all that that entails had an extraordinary impact, a profound impact on the way we view the creation of character.

“I think it provides a lot of opportunity, but the downside of it is that we now, particularly in America, I think, we expect and only expect people to make a profound connection to a character when it’s close to their experience.”

Cate Blanchett was nominated for an Oscar thanks to her portrayal of carol in the 2015 film 

Earlier this year, actress Scarlett Johansson dropped out of playing a transgender character following a backlash. In July, the actress was announced as the lead actor in the film Rug & Tug, about 1970s Pittsburgh crime boss Dante ‘Tex’ Gill, who was born Jean Gill. At the time, the actress received a lot of online criticism as many felt it showed the limited opportunities given to transgender roles.

Johansson, however, pointed out that multiple other actors have played trans roles, saying: “Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”

In her second statement about stepping down from the role, Johansson said she’d “learned a lot” from the trans community and was glad there had been a “larger conversation about diversity and representation in film”.

“While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person.”

Actor Sir Ian McKellen has openly criticised the film industry of it’s attitude towards gay actors, noting that no openly gay actor has ever won a best actor/actress Oscar. In contrast, straight actors have scooped the award for playing LGBTQ roles. 

To date, fifty-two straight people have been nominated for Oscars for playing gay characters, including Cate Blanchett for her portrayal in Carol.

Images: Getty / Rex Features 

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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for Stylist.co.uk, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.

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