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Billy Eichner says gay actors still face ‘limited’ opportunities in Hollywood

“There is no gay Tom Hanks in this country. There’s no gay Will Smith."

By Thomas Stichbury

Billy Eichner argues that little has changed in Hollywood and gay actors are still in the shadows of their straight counterparts.

This week, the American comedian and actor announced that he is developing and starring in Man in the Box, a biopic based on beloved TV icon Paul Lynde.

Best known for Bye Bye Birdie, Bewitched and long-running game show Hollywood Squares, Lynde was never publicly “out” – but he didn’t lie about his sexuality, either.

In an interview in Deadline, Eichner says that Lynde – who died aged 55 in 1982 – hit a wall, career-wise, on account of his sexuality, and that, that same frustration is being felt by LGBTQ actors nowadays.

(Photography: Leigh Keily for Attitude)

“There is no gay Tom Hanks in this country. There is no gay Will Ferrell. There’s no gay Steve Carell. There’s no gay Paul Rudd. There’s no gay Kevin Hart. There’s no gay Will Smith”, he reflects.

“The list goes on and on, and that’s not a coincidence. After a hundred years of making films, it’s not a coincidence. It’s not that they just haven’t been able to find the right gay man, who has enough talent to have a career like that,” he insists.

Rising to fame with his comedy series Billy on the Street, the outspoken comic urges Hollywood to take a long, hard look at its hypocritical self in the mirror, explaining that actors applauded for coming out in the media are swiftly bumped down casting lists.

Although Billy, 41, accepts that while progress has been made in the industry, he compares it to “getting thrown a bone here and there.”

(Photography: Leigh Keily for Attitude)

 The American Horror Story star also expresses his annoyance that “gay actors are never, hardly ever, I should say, allowed to play our own gay icons.”

“Harvey Milk, Freddie Mercury, Elton John. Where are the gay actors? And it’s not to take anything away from those performances, which were all excellent. But why don’t we get to tell our own stories?,” he says.

“I have a lot of friends who are openly gay actors in Hollywood. Many of us are successful, and have carved out lovely careers, to varying degrees.

“But when it really comes to some big project about a gay icon, the one everyone’s throwing awards at… we love the spectacle of rewarding a straight actor, for quote unquote, ‘transforming’ himself into a gay person.

(Photography: Leigh Keily for Attitude)

“I don’t think there needs to be a rule, like straight actors can never play gay, but it is so lopsided. It never works in the other direction. And we’re not even allowed to play our own heroes.

“I can tell you right now, that a gay actor, a gay person in general, understands the nuances, the idiosyncrasies, and the emotional complexity of playing another gay person, especially a famous gay person, playing another famous gay person, than a straight person does,” he concludes.

Billy will next be seen in Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story: Impeachment, playing Matt Drudge, who broke the Monica Lewinksy/Bill Clinton scandal.