Bret Easton Ellis says Matt Bomer is too gay for 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Why should Ellis's opinion matter anyway?
He wanted it so bad that he tweeted about it incessantly, discussing casting with his followers as if he'd already landed the gig. He mentioned meeting with the film's producers and tweeted photos of Matt Bomer and Ian Somerhalder to garner support from their fans, suggesting one of them should play the lead.
On July 17, he tweeted a photo of Bomer wearing a t-shirt that said "Easton," and commented, "So is Matt Bomer THE Christian Grey? I think the t-shirt says it all." On July 19 he added, "If you think I'm not thinking about MATT BOMER for FIFTY SHADES OF GREY think again."
Naturally, Bomer's droves of fans clamored to follow Ellis for updates about the erotic love story, hoping that their favorite actor would land the coveted role of Christian Grey, the tortured, kinky S&M dom who falls for virginal Anastasia Steele after she signs a contract agreeing to be his sex servant.
Shortly thereafter, Ellis was informed that he was not being considered to pen the screenplay. "It's a very major disappointment to announce that I've somehow been taken off the list of possible screenwriters for Fifty Shades of Grey," he confirmed via Twitter. "Thanks to the fans for the months of intense support. Your awesome enthusiasm and great suggestions were instructive and meaningful to me."
Indeed, the attention Ellis had received for his (real, exaggerated, or imagined) "50 Shades of Grey" connection was significant. He gained tons of new fans and followers, and was mentioned in the press frequently once again. So it should come as little surprise to those who follow Ellis' antics that upon hearing that he would never be attached to the high-profile project, he decided to stir up some drama of his own.
"Matt Bomer is totally hot and a very good actor. He is NOT right for Christian Grey and it complicates the role," he tweeted. "I don't care how good an actor you are but being married to another man complicates things for playing CG."
He didn't stop there.
Fifty Shades of Grey: Matt Bomer is NOT about discrimination. It's about an intensely straight actor wanting absolutely to screw Ana Steele.-- Bret Easton Ellis (@BretEastonEllis) August 8, 2012
Fifty Shades of Grey: the most popular book on the planet having Matt Bomer--a gay actor--play Christian Grey is absolutely ludicrous. Why?-- Bret Easton Ellis (@BretEastonEllis) August 8, 2012
Jesus, the homophobia over Matt Bomer not being Christian Grey is so unsettling and aesthetically retarded. He's NOT right for Christian G.-- Bret Easton Ellis (@BretEastonEllis) August 8, 2012
Okay I'll say it. Matt Bomer isn't right for Christian Grey because he is openly gay. He's great for other roles but this is too big a game.-- Bret Easton Ellis (@BretEastonEllis) August 8, 2012
And I think if Matt Bomer wants the role which I doubt the international press tour will be an embarrassing fiasco. He's not CG. Never...-- Bret Easton Ellis (@BretEastonEllis) August 8, 2012
I am NOT discriminating Matt Bomer because of his sexuality. Fifty Shades of Grey demands an actor that is genuinely into women. Get it?!?-- Bret Easton Ellis (@BretEastonEllis) August 8, 2012
I actually think it's cool that women want Matt Bomer as Christian Grey. It means that we've moved beyond stereotypes and that gay is hot...-- Bret Easton Ellis (@BretEastonEllis) August 8, 2012
I think Matt Bomer is incredibly handsome and a good actor but I think he comes off totally gay in White Collar. And that is why no to CG...-- Bret Easton Ellis (@BretEastonEllis) August 8, 2012
The rant continues, but we think you probably get the idea.
It's important to state this: There's no indication that Bomer is or ever was in conversations about the film. Ellis started this conversation himself and brought Bomer's name into it because he was having a great time stirring up Bomer's fanbase, which is large and enthusiastic given Bomer's prime roles in "White Collar," "Magic Mike," "Chuck," and more. And if Ellis had any hope of landing this writing gig, when he isn't known for his screenwriting or for adapting another author's work, he needed a vocal group to make some noise for him. When he no longer needed that group... well, the tweets speak for themselves.
We should also note that it isn't the first time Ellis, who has identified as bisexual or gay, has made a statement that's disturbed the LGBT community and their allies. Last April, he called "Glee" a "puddle of HIV." So he's not exactly discerning or sensitive (or classy) when it comes to his public statements.
Of course, Ellis isn't the first to raise the question as to whether a gay actor can play a straight role. It's a contentious issue that has plenty of agents, managers, and publicists in Hollywood urging their gay clients to stay in the closet for the sake of their careers. A Newsweek article in 2010 incited outrage from Ryan Murphy and Kristin Chenoweth when a reviewer claimed that gay actor Jonathan Groff came across as "your average theater queen" in his straight role on "Glee." After T.R. Knight came out of the closet, fans and critics alike claimed that his character's straight romances on "Grey's Anatomy" were unconvincing. The list goes on.
"White Collar" is now in its fourth season. Bomer plays reformed con man Neal Caffrey, and portrays what we've always considered a dynamic, complicated romance with Hilarie Burton's character. To be clear: it's complicated because it's written and acted that way, not because Bomer has a husband off-screen. Of course, that's just our opinion, but if you ask us, anyone who can't believe Bomer as a straight man on "White Collar" is either unable to distinguish fiction from reality, or is too distracted by Neal's bromance with Peter (Tim DeKay).
Ellis tweeted that in order for the performance to be genuine, the actor himself must want "absolutely to screw Ana Steele." But isn't the point of an actor... the acting? Presumably, Christian Bale didn't have to want absolutely to murder his co-stars to be fantastic as Patrick Bateman.
That said, Ellis may be a little confused about what great acting entails these days, seeing as his current project, "The Canyons," stars a porn star, James Deen, and Lindsay Lohan in a tale of "youth, glamor, sex and Los Angeles, circa 2012." They're not exactly stretching.
Interestingly enough, while Ellis felt the need to remark on Bomer's talent and personal life, he was simultaneously touting "Vampire Diaries" actor Somerhalder as the perfect man to play Christian Grey. Somerhalder, like Bomer, oozes sexuality on screen and comes with a powerful built-in fanbase, ready to sing Ellis' praises if he supports their fave. (And unlike Bomer, Somerhalder has actually expressed interest in doing the movie. A lot of interest.)
Here's the clincher. Bomer has built an enormously successful career playing straight characters. (He'll play his first gay character in Ryan Murphy's upcoming "The Normal Heart.) Somerhalder -- who is straight -- began his career playing a sexually confused high school student on The WB's wildly underrated "Young Americans." His character, Hamilton, fell in love with his best friend Jake before finding out that Jake was actually a girl. A year later, Somerhalder caught a big break when he was cast as the flamboyantly gay Paul in the 2002 film "Rules of Attraction."
Oh, right. By the way -- Bret Easton Ellis wrote "Rules of Attraction."
Clearly, Ellis has no problem with straight actors playing gay characters, so why is the opposite so difficult for him to wrap his mind around? This goes for the general viewing public as well. If an actor's off-screen straightness doesn't distract an audience when he's playing a character, then an actor's off-screen gayness should be equally unobtrusive. If it's not, it's because of the audience's ingrained, learned homophobia. It's because we as a society wrongly believe that gay people must be defined by their gayness first, and everything else, including their talent, second. And that's a problem.
Before Bomer's sexuality was public knowledge, we never saw a critic claim that he unconvincing as a straight, romantic leading man. (Seriously, we looked. If you find a review that says otherwise, we'd be interested to see it.) Even after rumors about his sexuality began to emerge, he continued to be lauded for his work on "White Collar."
The problem is that every time someone in a high-profile position makes a statement like this, it chips away at the progress made by those high-profile actors who have chosen to come out of the closet despite a potential career risk. That, in turn, has a detrimental impact on future generations of LGBT actors, and the vicious cycle continues. Seeing gay actors enjoy careers as diverse as those enjoyed by their straight colleagues can only help young gay fans to feel proud of who they are, which is important given the volatile landscape those fans must endure at home, at school, and in future endeavors.
In the end, Ellis' tweets say far more about Ellis himself than they do about Bomer, or about gay actors' place in Hollywood in general. Mostly, they say that he just lost a gig that would've gained him a lot of money and fame, and he was bummed. He was looking to cause a stir to keep his name in the press for something other than warring with Nikki Finke. So he took aim at a person whose work he obviously isn't familiar with and who never expressed interest in working with him in the first place.
Hopefully, fans will see his rant for what it is -- the bitter tirade of a man who can't see past his own internalized homophobia and can't handle rejection like a grown-up -- and not as a sign that gay actors seeking leading man status are somehow in a hopeless position.
It's not particularly "complicated."