Could Matt Bomer Become Hollywood's First Openly Gay Actor to Play a Straight Romantic Big-Screen Lead? (ANALYSIS)

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It's still unclear who'll be starring in the film version of erotic bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey, much less who'll be writing the screenplay. But novelist Bret Easton Ellis, who was briefly in line for the latter job, has some unflattering opinions about the former.

In a long series of tweets over the past week, Ellis has disparaged candidate Matt Bomer, insisting that the filmmakers would never cast him or any other openly gay actor as the straight romantic lead in a movie because of the belief that audiences won't buy an openly gay actor as a brazenly heterosexual movie stud, like kinky-sex-loving Christian Grey from E.L. James' book.

Ellis has taken a lot of heat over those views, to which he has responded by insisting that he's not homophobic, he's just voicing the conventional wisdom among Hollywood moguls about what moviegoing audiences will accept. One bit of flak came from Neil Patrick Harris, who poked fun at Ellis' stance in a tweet of his own.

What did Ellis and Harris say in their war of words over openly gay actors?

Ellis' series of tweets on the subject included a comment asserting, "Okay I'll say it. Matt Bomer isn't right for Christian Grey because he is openly gay. He's great for other roles but this is too big a game." In another tweet, he wrote, "Matt Bomer: I don't care how good an actor you are but being married to another man complicates things for playing CG." After several such tweets earned him some vehement replies, he responded, "I am NOT discriminating Matt Bomer because of his sexuality. Fifty Shades of Grey demands an actor that is genuinely into women. Get it?!?" Of Bomer's straight role on TV's White Collar, Ellis wrote, "I think Matt Bomer is incredibly handsome and a good actor but I think he comes off totally gay in White Collar. And that is why no to CG..."

Ellis insisted that his opinions had nothing to do with homophobia on his part but rather reflected the thinking of the movie executives who would make the casting decision. "Hollywood is the most homophobic place in the entire world," he tweeted. Hoping to put the matter to rest, he wrote, "Final word: there is no way in hell that the makers of 'Fifty Shades of Grey' will hire an openly gay actor to play Christian Grey. Period."

But that was not the final word. Harris weighed in with his own Twitter joke. "Bret Easton Ellis thinks gay actors can’t play straight roles," Harris wrote." Totally unrelated, I thought Christian Bale was amazing in ‘Welsh Psycho.’ "

See, Bale was thoroughly convincing as an American in the film version of Ellis' American Psycho, even though moviegoers know Bale is actually Welsh. Similarly, Harris seemed to suggest, Bomer could be thoroughly convincing as an amorous straight man, even though viewers know he's gay in real life.

(Asked by Celebuzz if Harris wanted to clarify or elaborate on his remark, his rep declined to comment. Reps for Ellis and Bomer did not respond to Celebuzz's request for comment.)

Harris has long been the go-to example that proves a gay actor can convincingly play someone aggressively heterosexual, as Harris has done with hetero horndog Barney for several years on How I Met Your Mother. But that's on TV, and a comic role. The sense of fantasy wish fulfillment and personal identification isn't there the way it would be in a sweeping, larger-than-life movie on the big screen, the argument goes.

Bomer himself has played straight as the lead on TV's White Collar, to the delight of many straight female fans. He also played straight as a steamy stripper on the big screen in this summer's hit Magic Mike. But that was a supporting role.

Is Hollywood ready to cast an openly gay actor in a romantic straight leading role in a mainstream movie? Probably not, suggested Entertainment Weekly columnist Mark Harris, in the magazine's cover story last month on uncloseted celebrities. "Could an openly gay actor, for example, have gotten cast in Channing Tatum’s role in The Vow? It’s doubtful," wrote Harris. "On the other hand, could an openly gay actor have gotten Channing Tatum’s role in 21 Jump Street? Absolutely."

Harris also observed that TV stars get more leeway to be open about their sexual orientation than movie stars do, since they're "the most relatable show-business celebrities, the ones we have in our homes and with whom we feel on almost intimate terms." They're not, however, as likely to be the ones on which viewers project their own grand romantic and sexual fantasies. Viewers may be more ready than Hollywood suits to accept a known gay actor in a straight romantic movie lead role, but we'll never know until some mainstream filmmaker actually tries to test the proposition.

As Entertainment Weekly staff editor Jeff Labrecque noted, whether Ellis is expressing his own prejudices or those of Hollywood studio executives doesn't matter. The assumptions are the same, and as long as they persist, the casting of Bomer or any other gay actor in a straight romantic lead role in a movie remains a long shot. But what if it weren't? What if Bomer became the test case to prove the conventional wisdom wrong? What if now was the moment someone tried to challenge it?

Even Ellis didn't seem to buy his own argument, suggesting in an about-face that this was indeed the moment to challenge Hollywood homophobia. "You know what? I changed my mind: I now think a gay actor HAS GOT to play Christian Grey. It's IMPERATIVE that someone gay plays him..." he tweeted. He then added, " Let's destroy the bullshit stereotypes of Hollywood studio moviemaking and cast a gay actor as Christian Grey in '50 Shades of Grey.' A win."

Then again, Ellis may have been kidding. Soon after, he tweeted what appeared to be an endorsement of Ian Somerhalder, who starred in the screen version of Ellis' The Rules of Attraction, and who is also reportedly a candidate for the role of Christian Grey. Of course, Somerhalder is well known to be straight, since he's dating his Vampire Diaries costar, Nina Dobrev.

At least Ellis was fully aware of the firestorm he'd started, quipping, "Well, there goes my GLAAD Humanitarian Award."

Watch video below for some other Christian Grey casting ideas.

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  • Debi Glass Miller
    Debi Glass Miller

    wow, so many h?ave said exactly how I feel. Christian Grey obviously loves women, knows how to be with a woman, knows how to act around a woman, Matt Bomer does not because he likes men. How can he actually accept this role - is he going to 'pretend' Dakota is a man while seducing her? mmmm, I think the "scribes" - who ever decides who plays him, should think twice. Personally, I won't watch the movie, many of people that are against gays won't watch the movie, is the director and all those making this book a GREAT film willing to risk the many that WON'T be watching it? Why not find a sexy actor that loves women? For example.... Channing Tatum. or maybe Leonardo DiCaprio? There has to be someone that is sexy/straight that wants that role. I hope others feel as I do. I know there are few that I've read said the same thing, "how can a gay man able to know how to seduce and be with a woman" especially in a role like this?

  • abbey


  • lmt

    Right, and actors playing superman can't fly, George Clooney isn't a real doctor or politician, Brad Pitt isn't a real thief or detective or faithful married man, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal aren't gay, Robert Pattinson isn't a real 17-year-old vampire/guy... It's called acting, and they just play a role, besides.

  • I Want Matt Bomer
    I Want Matt Bomer

    i couldnt agree more.

  • I Want Matt Bomer
    I Want Matt Bomer

    Matt is the only person i could imagine playing christian. Ian looks too tough and just not as fitting to what i imagined. whereas Matt just Has the right look about him. I'll be dissapointed to see anyone else get the role.

  • Jesse

    I think Bomer's sexual orientation has absolutley nothing to do with anything. He is handsome and an extremely gifted actor. I followed him on the show Chuck, then White Collar and anywhere else he goes. Beides, isn't the point of being an actor is pretending to be something or someone you're not.

  • jojorina

    Matt Bomer is gorgeous and likes men; that's him. But knowing that ruins it for me. I want a man who WANTS a woman in real life. It's called fantasy and I think most of us would pretend to be in that "fantasy."--that's why we like the series so much. Bottom line? He shouldn't play Christian Grey.

  • Caroline

    Seriously, it does matter if the Christian Grey role is played by a gay actor. Matt Bomer looks gay especially in some of the fan trailers. He is handsome, yes, but definitely not manly enough for this role.

  • Deanna

    dont care if hes gay...hes gorgeous...seems really down to earth and can play funny, serious roles...but really wish Ian will get the part..

  • PJ James Hurlburt
    PJ James Hurlburt

    cannot wait until this movie comes out. REALLY would like to see it.

  • Iris

    It's funny that I don't even know he was gay until I read that not too long ago. And yet I still think he's super hot. He is perfect for the role!

  • Iris

    Ian is totally NOT hot!!!sorry, I just don't see it. Ion the other hand, Matt Bomer is gorgeous, who cares is he's gay.

  • Kelly


  • Aimee

    Matt Bomer IS Christian Grey. A movie is an illusion. It doesn't matter if he's gay in real life since he's that gorgeous of an actor. I love him White Collar & Magic Mike. I wish he never declared his sexual orientation to keep the illusion, but 50 Shades of Grey needs HIS looks for Christian Grey.

  • anonymous

    i HOPE matt would get the role but will turn it down. 50 shades of grey is the shittest book since twilight, the worst book for feminism since twilight and the worst thing that happened to straight-forward thinking men now thinking they must be kind of weird psychos beating the shit out of women to get in the game. so yeah i think matt is far too intelligent to consider such a role. women should start reading john stuart mill's "subjection of women" from 1869. now THAT'S feminism, written by a man. not a little girl whose subconcious talks to her... yes of course, read freud my friend. oh my oh my oh crap oh holy crap. couldn't have read that much, her vocabulary is very limited. so much for allgedly graduated in LITERATURE.

  • stylin

    It won't work! He's homosexual and hates females. Perhaps closeted Henry Cavill will do the role justice, but not this punk!

  • Marie

    Matt is the only one. So sexy. I don't care he's gay, I want him!!! All the other actors are ridiculous for this role.

  • sfitz

    Gabriele macht is the best man for the job . He plays harvey Spector in the show 'Suits" on TNT

  • Stacy

    As sexy as these guys are, it won't make up for the crap writing of this book. It's going to be funny to see the screenwriters try to use words other than, 'Oh, my' or 'crap'. Get out your thesaurus, guys. There's a lot of repetitiveness to over come. I won't be matter how sexy I think Ian is.

  • Dawn

    He's totally wrong for the role! I don't really care who the best actors are--in an intense kissing scene you'll be able to tell. You have to have chemistry with your co-star...and your real-life preferences DO play into that and affect you as an actor. Sure a good actor can pretend to make it seem real, but it will fall short. I'm all about gay marriages and I support Matt's personal life choice, but this is a unique role. One that you need to have real intense passion that doesn't require forcing acting in those type of steamy needs to be more instinctual. I think Chris Hemsworth or Ian Somerhalder are good choices. Ian in his steamy scenes definitely could pull it off.

  • Defender of Fiction
    Defender of Fiction

    Actually, I think the most important argument as to whether or not Matt Bomer should play Christian Grey is that he is a respectable actor and Fifty Shades of Grey is a ridiculous and terribly written piece of fiction which is more ridiculing to women than even Twilight was. I don't care about the content, or whether it's exhilarating or edgy or controversially erotic. I don't really care that it came from Twilight fanfiction or how much money it has made selling ridiculous numbers of copies. All I care about is that it is possibly the worst written piece of fiction not only this decade, but in HISTORY. I'd hate to see a good actor waste their career on the film version of this awful excuse for a book.

  • Marty

    Only three words... MATT IS PERFECT!!!! When I think of Christian Grey, I imagine Matt of course *____*!

  • J.K


  • Ella

    Wow, intelligence knows no bounds, stupid wench

  • Yulia Revski
    Yulia Revski

    Matt Bomer IS Christian Grey

  • Shinybabyhead

    I couldn't agree more, the book is absolute crap. The only saving grace is the smut, which isn't as outrageous as the hype suggests. Remove the smut, and what is left is pedantic, sloppy, unimaginitive, and frankly, demeaning to women. The main character is an educated woman, who has chosen to remain a virgin till 23 years old, and yet falls into the BDSM bed of a total stranger after a week? Yeah, right...(I say that sardonically btw). I cringe at the thought of these books being rewritten from CGs perspective.

  • Shinybabyhead

    First off, this book is total crap, easily the worst writing, ever. The so-called author should be banned from writing ever again. Second, Bomer is attractive, but not the least bit believable as the tall, impossibly gorgeous Grey. Alexander Skarsgard, tall, built, gorgeous bluish-gray eyes, he would be the perfect CG.

  • Eva

    Matt Bomer is hot!!! and a great actor. It doesn´t matter that he´s gay and he doens´t come off as gay in white collar at all! But why would he want to play in a semi porno movie?

  • rosi

    the book was shit and matt bomer would waste his time and career to appear in it.

  • Jeannette

    NO, NO NO, PLEASE NO!!!!! He is gorgeous but if he is not Christian. If he is in the movie I will be thinking, he is gay, he is gay, and he is not Christian. He likes other man and not woman…Please Noooo!!! Jeannette

  • SG

    "This novel left us ladies fantasizing about Christian Grey." -- It really irritates me how so many females touting this POV (that women can only be satisfied by seeing a straight guy in the role) like to talk as if they are speaking for ALL women: "us ladies" "we women" etc etc. You do NOT speak for all women (as always made clear by the majority of the other comments, which people such as you evidently don't read), just for those women who insist on defining an actor by his sexuality before his talent or even looks. It's outdated and beyond tedious and your problem. (and loss, frankly) As such, please don't try and paint all womenkind with your unimaginative brush.

  • Gigi

    Wow, look at you displaying your vast intelligence there.

  • n0mii

    lol shut ur mouth you imbosil.

  • iloverob

    PLEASE PLEASE Matt Bomer be Christian Grey!!!!!!

  • Team Ian!
    Team Ian!

    I recognise that you complimented Matt Bomer's appearance in your original comment, but I don't think it's fair to assume that he won't "fulfill the fantasy" because of his sexual orientation. May I remind you that Christian Grey is a fictitious character and the real nature of BDSM is a lot more dangerous and emotionally detached - the possible sexuality of the actor chosen to play CG should not be your biggest concern regarding what may "kill the fantasy". I'm sorry but your comments about other candidates being "scrawny", "ewwwwwwww" or "too old" to play CG kind of implied that you were looking for eye candy. Personally, I think that the way that Ian Somerhalder is able to portray emotion through his eyes, separate his expression from the feeling that is conveyed and create a believable layered character are exactly what is required from the actor chosen to play CG. But hey, each to their own. Just be a little more open-minded next time.

  • ChrisHemsworthForChristianGrey

    It is not just based on "eye candy" thank you very much! it was also because of the acting. But let me get to the point. What I said about Matt Bomer was not meant in a negative way that you make it seem. You just skipped all the beginning and pointed out the one thing I said that wasn't a compliment. But if it offended anybody in anyway. I apologize from the bottom of my heart. I had no intentions of it being such a negative comment. From the beginning all I wanted to say was that I love Chris Hemsworth for mr. Grey. But that is just ME.

  • Team Ian!
    Team Ian!

    I'm just going to skip past your comments about Matt Bomer - your opinion, even though I don't personally agree. What I will point out though is that "scrawny" should really not be a discriminating factor in deciding who gets the role. It is so easy for male actors to bulk up (or down), and many do depending on the roles that they land. (Have you seen Christian Bales's transformations over his career?) The more important thing here, which you touched on oh so lightly in your prejudiced comments about Matt Bomer, is the ability to evoke a response in the audience. I personally think that Ian Somerhalder will make the best Christian Grey, and at least my reasons go beyond just eye candy.

  • ChrisHemsworthForChristianGrey

    Matt Bomer is very handsome and does have features that would make him a candidate for Christian Grey. I just don't think he should portray the role. This novel left us ladies fantasizing about Christian Grey. And if Matt got the part it would kill the fantasy that we could ever have a man like Bomer who clearly is NOT into woman. Personally, I think Chris Hemsworth is PERFECT for the part. He fits every detail of Grey's description in the book. He is the PERFECT Christian Grey!!!!!!!!! It should definitely NOT be Ian Somerhalder!!! He is short and scrawny and he is just too ewwwwwwww to ever play a man like Christan Grey. And Ryan Gosling? People have got to be kidding! He is too old and he is just as scrawny as Ian S. Chris Hemsworth is the best and should be the one and only Christian Grey!

  • Tee

    It REALLY shouldn't matter if Matt Bomer is gay at all! It bothers me that this argument is even valid. It would be different if he was more flamboyant and feminine (not that there's anything wrong with that, but obviously if he was it would be hard for him to play Christian). He's very masculine and I doubt many people would have assumed he was gay if he didn't openly admit it. He's got the look and he's got the support of many fans of the book, so I doubt the movie would suffer in the slightest if he was casted. It would be a real shame if Hollywood didn't even consider him because I think anyone who has read the book must admit that, sexuality aside, he IS Christian. He has that jaw-dropping gorgeous face that Christian is supposed to have plus the fresh cut, young CEO look. As long as he is comfortable playing the role, then I see no issues with him being casted. With all that being said, if Hollywood is going to be stubborn and stick to their guns, I think Ian would also make a great Christian.

  • Team Bomer for CG
    Team Bomer for CG

    Matt Bomer is a talented actor and would be perfect for the role. Most people don't care he is gay, because it has no significance to his acting, I really wish people would focus on the man and stop only caring about his sexual orientation.

  • me ^_^
    me ^_^

    ian is the best candidate fot this role hes freakin SEXY!!! and u can see the character on him.

  • Zoe


  • Kenley.

    Matt dose not come off as gay at all while he is acting. He needs to play Christian Grey or the movie will just be wrong.

  • Kate

    I love Matt. I don't care that he is gay. He is so sexy and is Christian Grey. Don't think I'd watch the film if he isn't Christian Grey!

  • @MattBomerforCG

    Get over it. It's 2012 for crying out loud. No one else but Matt can pull off this role. He's got the look, the sex appeal, and who can rock a suit better than him?! We love you Matt! #TeamBomer

  • Katie

    Does this mean straight actors need to stop playing gay roles? Matt is 100% perfect for Christian Grey and is so so sexy.

  • Raluca

    I love Matt! I don't care if he is gay! He is great!

  • Women want Matt
    Women want Matt

    Clearly Matt's female fans don't care if he's gay or's obviously just something MEN seem to have an issue with. Women have much better imaginations and would very much enjoy him in this role. He is gorgeous, a great actor, and is totally Christian Grey. Looks are subjective (keep that in mind when casting this role...Ian S. blech), but NOT when it comes to Matt Bomer.

  • annoyed reader
    annoyed reader

    i feel the same way i have and will continue to picture matt as christian grey

  • annoyed reader
    annoyed reader

    i would watch and not think anything about the actor playing grey as being gay play a character has nothing to do with your personal life. its called acting for a reason.

  • Anne

    Matt Bomer IS Christian Grey. I only picture this man for the role! He's ridiculous handsome.