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Coming out still a tightrope walk in movie biz

  • Neil Patrick Harris at the Tony Awards in June
Neil Patrick Harris at the Tony Awards in June (Reuters file )
July 23, 2012|By Renee Pinckney, RedEye

When Ellen DeGeneres came out in 1997, advertisers including J.C. Penney pulled advertising from her sitcom to avoid controversy. Today, the talk show host is a spokeswoman for the retailer.

Rich Ferraro, vice president of communications at GLADD, points to this evolution as an indicator that the country, and Hollywood, continues to evolve on LGBT issues—despite there not being an openly gay A-list movie star in Hollywood.

"A few years ago people might not have believed that we would be living in a world today where popular musicians, actors and politicians are openly gay," he said. "While there may not be an A-list movie star right now, I think we're moving in the right direction."

With this cultural shift, Ferraro expects movie stars will eventually come out and be met with the same embrace by fans and critics that Adam Lambert,Jane Lynch, Anderson Cooper and most recently, Frank Ocean have experienced.

"We're living in a culture where the president is for gay marriage and we have actors like Neil Patrick Harris playing a ladies man on a really popular and critically-acclaimed sitcom," he added. "The demographic that the film industry covets really doesn't care about the issue anymore, so I think it's really about finding the first person to break open this door."

The decision for a leading actor or actress to come out is something both they and their representatives wrestle with, according to Tammara Billik, a Hollywood casting director with Billik/Wood Casting.

"People have a hard time distinguishing from the actor and the person playing that role so they maybe a concern that people wont accept a gay male as a romantic lead," she said. "In television, we have leading men playing heterosexual roles and there hasn't been a dip in viewership, so I'm hopeful that it will lend itself to A-list movie stars coming out in the future."

Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman, who has represented CNN anchor Don Lemon, "Dancing With the Stars"contestant Chaz Bono, country singer Chely Wright and "Family Ties" actress Meredith Baxter when they came out to the public, said the reality is that there are A-list movie stars who exist, but the decision to come out is an extremely personal one.

"It really goes to a person's soul and if they're willing to make a deal with the devil and say I want to be a huge star so I will hide my sexual orientation, or I want to live an honest life and let the chips fall where they may."

RENEE PINCKNEY IS A REDEYE INTERN.

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