Cate Blanchett has spoken out in defence of straight actors who play LGBT roles in film and on TV.
The actress – who received an Oscar nomination for her role as a divorcee who embarks on a love affair with a woman in 2015’s Carol – addressed the criticism Hollywood has received recently for giving LGBT roles to straight actors during a Q&A at the Rome Film Festival.
She said: “I will fight to the death for the right to suspend disbelief and play roles beyond my experience.”
The actress went of to share her view that she disagrees with the idea that a performer can only truly connect with a character if they have shared the same experiences.
Blanchett also appeared to suggest reality television was partly to blame for the backlash.
She said: “Reality television and all that that entails had an extraordinary impact, a profound impact on the way we view the creation of character.”
“I think it provides a lot of opportunity, but the downside of it is that we now, particularly in America, we expect and only expect people to make a profound connection to a character when it’s close to their experience.”
Blanchett’s comments come after a string of straight actors have been criticised for taking on LGBT roles.
In July, Scarlett Johansson pulled out of a role in upcoming film Rub & Tug, which would have seen her play a transgender man.
The actress was set to play Lois Jean Gill in the film set in the 1970s, which is based on the true story of Pittsburgh crime boss Dante “Tex” Gill, who was born Jean Gill.
Gill operated a massage parlour and prostitution business in Pittsburgh in the 1970s and 80s but was later convicted of tax evasion in 1984, spending seven years in prison. He died in 2003.
After a backlash with online commenters, Johansson initially released a statement that referenced other high-profile actors who had played transgender roles. She wrote: “Tell them they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment.”
Reacting to her statement, trans male actors mocked Johansson mocked her by releasing a video in which they seem to be auditioning for her most famous roles.
However, weeks later the actress pulled out of the role, saying in a statement: “In light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante Tex Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project.
“Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realise it was insensitive. I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues.”
Sir Ian McKellen has previously criticised Hollywood’s casting of straight actors in LGBT roles and pointed out that no openly gay actor has ever won an Oscar for best actor.
Overall, 52 straight actors have received Academy Award nominations for playing gay characters, including Blanchett for her role in ‘Carol’ and Tom Hanks for his role in ‘Philadelphia’.