Whether Oscar-nominated actor Leonardo DiCaprio chooses to identify himself as "gay" is entirely his business. Where once the issue of outing celebrities sharply divided the gay and lesbian community, there has been a growing consensus that the reluctance of the mainstream press to discuss such "personal" issues is hypocritical, since editors regularly disclose very sensitive private details about public figures. DiCaprio may be the latest test case.
The star fired the first round when he declared last year in Interview magazine that he was uncertain about his own sexual identity. For a young actor who was the first choice of producers to star in an upcoming big-budget James Dean biopic, it was a moment of unprecedented candor.
Then came a profile of openly gay actor Craig Chester in the January 1995 issue of Genre, a gay lifestyle magazine. In the course of an unsensational conversation about homosexuality in Hollywood, writer Kimberly Yutani mentions the rumor that "DiCaprio is ready to come out, but his agents and managers won't let him." Chester acknowledges Yutani's comment as fact, and proceeds to paint Creative Artists Agency--the powerful entity that represents DiCaprio--as a descendent of the old-style Hollywood studio dictatorships, bullying gay actors into heterosexual relationships for publicity purposes.
Shortly after the Genre piece appeared, DiCaprio canceled all press appearances for his next two projects, The Quick and the Dead and The Basketball Diaries, supposedly at the behest of CAA, which didn't want him to face questions about his sexuality. DiCaprio did, however, grace the cover of Movieline's March issue. The author of the piece asked him if he'd ever kissed a man; he replied in the negative. DiCaprio, cited as "the guy girls want to meet," dwells at length on his first date with a girl--although he declares their kiss to be "the most disgusting thing in my life."
The question that arises from all this isn't whether an actor's sexual orientation should inhibit his career progress (it shouldn't), but whether he can speak about it without forever limiting himself. Are hetero movie fans willing to make the same leap of faith homo audiences have made for decades, and accept an actor who loves men portraying a man who loves women? Speculation will likely reach a boil with DiCaprio's next project--he'll co-star with David Thewlis (Naked) in Agnieszka Holland's epic about the love affair between 19th century poets Verlaine and Rimbaud. Stay tuned.
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