Idris Elba Faces Backlash After Defending Straight Actor’s Casting As Disney’s First Openly Gay Character

"You don’t necessarily have to be gay to play a gay character," the actor said.
Paula Rogo Sep, 03, 2018

Idris Elba came under fire last week for comments he made about straight actors taking on LGBTQ roles.

The “Luther” actor was asked by TimeOut London about Disney casting a straight male in the role of its first openly gay character in the upcoming movie Jungle Cruise. Last month, The Sun revealed that British comedian Jack Whitehall would be playing a gay man who is “hugely effete, very camp, and very funny” alongside Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Emily Blunt.

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There was immediate backlash online with many saying it was an opportunity for Disney to advance LGBT actors in the historic role.

But Elba didn’t find a problem with the casting, telling TimeOut London  that it was all about “artistic license.”

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“Artistic license is artistic license. If an actor has the attributes to do something, they should be able to do it,” he said. “They’re acting. You don’t necessarily have to be gay to play a gay character.”

He added: “Though you do have to be Black to play a Black character.”

Many took Elba’s words to task and called his statement hypocritical.

Jungle Cruise is based on the Disney Parks attraction of the same name. The adventure film stars Johnson as a boat captain who takes a brother and sister, Whitehall and Blunt, into the jungle on an expedition to find a tree with magical healing powers.

The movie is scheduled to open in theaters on October 11, 2019.