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Happy Pride Month! Every June, the world takes time to honor the LGBTQ community in the name of the 1969 Stonewall Riots. There have been large strides in the representation of the community in film and television, but it wasn’t too long ago when the idea of coming out as a public figure was a nerve-wracking concept. Legally Blonde and Titanic actor Victor Garber is reflecting on the day he came out at the age of 63. In his words:
I did come out inadvertently. This happened in an interview in Pasadena. I think it was after the Golden Globes in 2013 after Argo. And this guy was interviewing me, and he said, ‘How long have you been together with [your husband] Rainer [Andreesen]?’ And I said, ‘Oh, we've been together a number of years’ and didn't really think about it. And Rainer was on a ski lift in Aspen and said he got like 40 texts and he nearly fell out of his chairlift. He said, ‘I guess you're outed now.’
When the Argo actor came out, he’d already been with his partner for 14 years and didn’t try to hide it. I guess the conversation just never came up. While thinking back to his coming out seven years later, Victor Garber told THR that Lord of the Rings’ Gandalf, Ian McKellen, first encouraged him to talk about it publicly:
Ian McKellen and I had dinner one night, and it was just around the time he had come out [in 1988]. He told me I had to come out. And it really resonated with me. But I didn't have the courage to do it until I was older.
Ian McKellen's coming out story happened out of activism in the ‘80s when the United Kingdom was introducing a controversial section to the law that would prevent authorities from "intentionally promot[ing] homosexuality or publish[ing] material with the intention of promoting homosexuality.” During a discussion with BBC Radio 3, McKellen spoke out against it, naming himself as a part of the community.
The actor who has also found success in the X-Men films as Magneto, once told HuffPost of how his early coming out informed his work as an actor for years to come with this:
What happened immediately, according to friends, is I became not just a happier person, but a better actor. I think up to that point, I had been using acting as a disguise -- somewhere where I could express my emotions, and draw attention to myself in a way that I didn't particularly want to do in real life. Acting became not about disguise, but about telling the truth. And my emotions became much freer. I was able to act better as I think you are able to do any job. Everyone's better if they're being honest.
Perhaps one experience that stunted Victor Garber’s coming out until 2013 was when the actor portrayed Liberace for 1988’s Liberace: Behind the Music. After portraying the gay music icon, Garber feels he had trouble finding work on television for years.
This is a past struggle in the industry even Laura Dern felt after portraying a lesbian woman in Ellen DeGeneres’ famed coming out episode of her comedy series in 1997. Dern was at the height of her career and had just starred in Jurassic Park when suddenly the offers stopped coming in.
Hollywood has thankfully shifted (and continues to shift) its perspective on the LGBTQ community since the ‘80s, ‘90s and even just five years ago. Stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more stories on your favorite actors working today.