Stanley Tucci weighs in on straight actors playing gay characters

Stanley Tucci (Amanda Benson/BBC/PA)
Stanley Tucci (Amanda Benson/BBC/PA) Stanley Tucci (Amanda Benson/BBC/PA)

Hollywood star Stanley Tucci has spoken of his belief that actors should not be restricted to roles that match their own sexuality amid an ongoing debate on the subject.

The 62-year-old American, who has starred in hits including The Hunger Games and The Devil Wears Prada, said an actor’s job is “to play different people”, adding: “That’s the whole point of it.”

In an interview about his life and career on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, host Lauren Laverne asked for his take on whether “straight actors should play gay characters” following his recent role playing Colin Firth’s on-screen partner in Supernova.

Prince’s Trust Awards
Prince’s Trust Awards Stanley Tucci meets the King at a Prince’s Trust Awards reception in May (Geoff Pugh/Daily Telegraph/PA)

He said: “Obviously, I believe that’s fine, and I’m always very flattered when gay men come up to me and talk about The Devil Wears Prada or when they talk about Supernova, and they say ‘It was just so beautiful, you did it the right way’ – because often it’s not done the right way.

“But I really do believe that an actor is an actor is an actor.

“You’re supposed to play different people. You just are. That’s the whole point of it.”

During the conversation, Tucci spoke of acting as an “escape”, particularly following the death of his first wife, Kathryn (Kate) Spath, in 2009 from breast cancer.

He said: “It’s a way of controlling time and emotion and space, because we have no control over any of that in our lives and that’s what theatre does, that’s what film-making does.

“I feel much safer on stage than I do in my real life. Sometimes walking into a cocktail party or a dinner party I get very nervous.”

Women’s Prize for Fiction 2023
Women’s Prize for Fiction 2023 Actor Stanley Tucci with his second wife, Felicity Blunt (Ian West/PA)

Tucci said he did not work for a almost a year after Kate’s death, adding: “You never really get over it.”

Describing his guilt that he could not offer more help in her final days, he said: “I was afraid it would affect me so greatly that it would overwhelm me, so that I wouldn’t be able to go on and take care of the kids, so I had to step away.

“Other people were there with her… but you still feel guilty about it and you feel sad about it.”

The actor, who now lives in London with his second wife, Felicity Blunt, spoke about the doubts he had dating the sister of his The Devil Wears Prada co-star Emily Blunt, who was more than two decades younger than him.

“I was kind of afraid of getting into a relationship and I kept trying to break it off because I am 21 years older than she is and I didn’t want to feel old but I knew this was an incredibly special person,” he said.

“If anybody made things better for all of us, it is her. She’s the one.”