Stanley Tucci weighed in on whether he believes straight actors should be free to play gay characters, saying, “Obviously, I believe that’s fine,” as long as it’s done “the right way.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, the Oscar nominee said, “I am always very flattered when gay men come up to me and talk about my role in The Devil Wears Prada or Supernova, and say I did it the right way. Because often it is not done the right way.”
In the British romantic drama Supernova, Tucci and Colin Firth played a couple traveling across Europe to visit family and friends after Tucci’s character gets diagnosed with dementia. The film was praised by critics and short-listed for two BAFTA awards.
He continued, “I really do believe as an actor that you are supposed to play different people. You just are. That’s the whole point of it.”
Many straight actors have received critical acclaim for playing queer roles, including Tom Hanks, who won an Academy Award for playing a gay man with HIV in the 1993 film Philadelphia.
Other performances have not been as well-received, such as James Corden’s controversial portrayal of a gay man in The Prom, which some called “aggressively flamboyant” and “the worst gayface in a long, long time.”
Various actors have weighed in on the ongoing debate, including actress Kristen Stewart who led the queer holiday romcom Happiest Season in 2020. At the time, Stewart admitted that she didn’t have a “sure-shot answer” for it.
“I would never want to tell a story that really should be told by somebody who’s lived that experience,” she said. “Having said that, it’s a slippery slope conversation because that means I could never play another straight character if I’m going to hold everyone to the letter of this particular law. I think it’s such a gray area.”
Stewart’s co-star Mackenzie Davis does not identify as a lesbian, though Stewart maintained that she “was the only person in my mind that could have played this with me.”
The actress shared some final advice for actors looking to play gay characters. “My answer is fucking think about what you’re doing!” she said. “And don’t be an asshole.”