When Zachary Quinto publicly came out as a gay man in October 2011, plenty of cultural commentators questioned if the admission (which had been speculated online for years) would hurt his career. Last year’s double-whammy of revelations from Frank Ocean and Anderson Cooper prompted at least one piece in New York magazine claiming that coming out was no longer the career-changing move it used to be. Last June, Entertainment Weekly devoted its cover story to the notion that LGBT entertainers are opening up about their personal lives in such a casual way that no one seems to notice. The shrugging-off of a star’s sexuality does not, however, occur when the actor in question aims for Hollywood leading-man status. Take, for example, the curious case of Luke Evans, who was recently tapped as the lead in the upcoming remake of The Crow, and who in the last three years has casually taken a few steps back into the closet.
The 34 year-old Evans, who has had steady work in blockbuster movies in the last three years starting with his film debut in 2010’s Clash of the Titans, has achieved modest success in Hollywood with roles in overblown, big-budget films. Also on his resume are two adventure films, The Three Musketeers and Immortals, as well as the forgettable Edgar Allen Poe horror biopic The Raven; before landing the lead in The Crow, Evans’ biggest breakout was a role in Peter Jackson’s three-part adaptation of The Hobbit. As with many up-and-coming Hollywood actors, Evans’ name has popped up in a few news items linking him to giddy ingénues: take this press release-lite story from 2010 about his budding relationship with fellow Wales native Holly Goodchild (a name that seems to come right out of an Old Hollywood star magazine). This would all seem pretty ordinary if Evans hadn’t publicly come out as gay in two interviews a decade ago.
In 2002, when Evans was 23 and starring in the West End production of the Boy George musical Taboo, he was very forthcoming to The Advocate’s Paris Barclay. “People come up to me in pubs, gay pubs mind you, and can’t believe that I’m gay,” Evans said. He continued, telling Barclay that he had no intention of hiding this part of his personal life. (Barclay wrote in the introduction to his interview with Evans that he wanted to talk to Evans about his candor in particular “before Luke Evans becomes a household name here in the States and changes his mind!”) In 2004, when Evans performed in Hardcore, a stage drama about the UK porn industry, he reiterated the message, saying that being out hasn’t affected his career. “I did it for myself,” he told London gay magazine QX. “I didn’t do it for anything else — just my own self worth. I wasn’t happy living a lie as I’d been living a lie for the majority of my life, so performing in Taboo was a good time to come out, and it hasn’t bothered my career at all.”
Years later, as a rising star in Hollywood, Evans’ sexuality has come into question, and he (or his publicity team) has become circumspect about it. It’s something that Michael Jensen of the gay film blog The Backlot noticed immediately, having known about Evans’ previous public acknowledgement of his homosexuality. When Jensen contacted Evans’ press management to question his romantic link to Holly Goodchild in 2011, he discovered that the actor’s Wikipedia entry, which had previously indicated that he was openly gay, had been changed. “In the last 10 years Luke Evans stance [sic] has always been to remain quietly dignified and focus solely on his career, family and friends which are incredibly important to him,” the update read. (As of this writing, the Personal Life section on the Wikipedia entry includes both his early-career outspokenness and the 2011 link to Goodchild.)
Should Evans be forced to comment on his personal life? Of course not. Should he willingly comment on it? Possibly. In a time when there are so few leading men who are openly gay, to have an openly gay actor take on the starring role in an action film based on both a popular comic book and an infamous ‘90s film would be a groundbreaking achievement for LGBT visibility. The sad truth, however, is that there’s still a taboo here: the executives behind The Crow, as well as those who are making money off of Evans’ press appearances, may still fear that Evans’s continued public acknowledgement of his sexuality would hurt their bottom line. (It also threatens the notion that coming out is not a difficult thing to do, or an act that is a positive PR move.) The point is that Evans’ sexuality — whether he is straight, gay, or bisexual — is still something that publicly matters.