Stanley Tucci appeared on BBC Radio 4’s “Desert Island Discs” show and weighed in on the debate over straight actors playing gay characters. The Oscar nominee, whose been married to Emily Blunt’s sister since 2012, played gay roles in “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006) and “Supernova” (2020) and received critical acclaim for both performances.
“Obviously I believe that’s fine,” Tucci said about straight actors taking gay roles. “I am always very flattered when gay men come up to me and talk to me about ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ or they talk about ‘Supernova,’ and they say that, ‘It was just so beautiful,’ you know, ‘You did it the right way.’ Because often, it’s not done the right way.”
“An actor is an actor is an actor,” Tucci added. “You’re supposed to play different people. You just are. That’s the whole point of it.”
As long as it’s being done “the right way,” Tucci said it’s fine for straight actors to play gay characters on screen. When it tips into caricature and stereotypes, then it becomes a problem.
Tucci’s thoughts differ from that of Tom Hanks, who told The New York Times Magazine last year that a straight actor could not take on a gay role like the one he played in Jonathan Demme’s 1993 legal drama “Philadelphia.” Hanks starred in the film as a gay man with HIV who is discriminated against at work, and he won the Oscar for best actor thanks to his performance.
“Let’s address ‘could a straight man do what I did in “Philadelphia” now?’ No, and rightly so,” Hanks said. “The whole point of ‘Philadelphia’ was don’t be afraid. One of the reasons people weren’t afraid of that movie is that I was playing a gay man. We’re beyond that now, and I don’t think people would accept the inauthenticity of a straight guy playing a gay guy.”
“It’s not a crime, it’s not boohoo, that someone would say we are going to demand more of a movie in the modern realm of authenticity,” Hanks added. “Do I sound like I’m preaching? I don’t mean to.”
Listen to Tucci’s full appearance on BBC Radio 4’s “Desert Island Discs” show here.