BRUCE L HART: OUT IN THE OPEN
ONSCREEN HE’S BEEN MARRIED TO GREG LOUGANIS AND TACKLED BY IAN ROBERTS. OFF-SCREEN BRUCE L HART HAS PLENTY TO SAY ABOUT THE HOLLYWOOD CASTING COUCH. INTERVIEW BY MARC ANDREWS.
Onscreen he’s been married to Greg Louganis and tackled by Ian Roberts. Off-screen he has plenty to say about the casting couch.
When I was younger and more vulnerable there were the predator types out there and I received my share of it. It felt horrible.
DNA: You’re an openly gay actor working in Hollywood today. Has this been a struggle? Bruce: That’s right – out, open and proud! Of course. Being part of a minority group is always a struggle. Factor in being a gay performer on TV and movies and it amplifies it. Yes, it’s been a struggle, but nothing you want comes easily.
Was there ever a time when you thought about hiding the fact you are gay?
Honestly, never. When I was in college majoring in – what else? – theatre I had a professor who cautioned me that I should not be “so out” because I would never get work in mainstream projects. Some advice you follow and some you ignore. Years later she sent me a note telling me how proud she was of my success having apparently forgotten that long-ago conversation.
Do you think that being openly gay has ever lost you a major role?
I’m sure there have been moments when being an out actor has been a barrier to securing certain roles, especially when auditioning for mainstream roles, like non-gay characters. But nobody is going to tell you to your face that they won’t cast you in a heterosexual role because they know you’re gay. You just have to be persistent and audition well. Being gay doesn’t always get you gay roles either! With sexual assault in Hollywood a big media story, has this ever affected you?
Yes. When I was younger and more vulnerable there were the predator types out there and I received my share of it. It felt horrible. In fact, not long ago I had a problem with an industry person who put me in an uncomfortable situation in his office – basically a “sex for a role” type of promise. I said, “No, thanks!” and left and didn’t get the part! What did Neely O’Hara say in Valley Of The Dolls? “At least I have my dignity.” I will take my dignity over a role for sexual favors any day.
Have things changed now in the world, post Kevin Spacey?
Things will change, but slowly. It’s a positive sign that people are speaking up. Both women and men are targets. Corey Feldman is finally being taken seriously about his stories of harassment when he was younger and, of course, this is not just restricted to show business. It can happen anywhere.
As a young actor, how did you protect yourself from assault and being groomed?
I started pursuing acting in my early twenties and was very naïve, but my upbringing helped me. I had parents who, from an early age, taught me to be both self-sufficient and aware of my surroundings. That cautionary tale of “Don’t take rides from strangers!” has served me well!
How did you and Ian Roberts come to work together?
The film Saltwater brought us together. I joked the first day on the set that I hoped he wasn’t going to tackle me and toss me into the air. His character did that in Superman Returns. I’ll admit I was a little intimidated when I first met him but we really clicked once we started to get to know each other. You’ve ventured into web series, too, with Old Dogs And New Tricks.
The future is here! When web shows like Old Dogs first appeared they were mainly hosted on sites like YouTube. Old Dogs And New Tricks was ground
breaking because it embraced a medium that was just starting and it gave a voice to older LGBTIQ characters. With the birth of streaming platforms like Hulu and Netflix suddenly we are seeing all kinds of original new series like The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu and Dear White People on Netflix. Both these series feature great gay roles.
Tell us about your new movie Open?
It’s about a gay couple, me and Peter Szeliga, celebrating their ten-year anniversary and starting to feel stifled. Since their close friends are in an open relationship they decide to try it for themselves. They draft a set of rules for their new open relationship and proceed to hurtle into their new situation with calamitous, humorous and humbling results. What I enjoy about the film is it doesn’t make judgments, it simply tells the story. My character, Kyle goes on a series of speed dates and (porn actor) Ron Jeremy makes a cameo as one of my bad dates.
What roles are you working on?
I recently auditioned for a cool Zac Efron project. I just appeared in a TV film, Unfallen playing a devout Christian adoption counsellor. I’m in talks with producers to appear in a film sequel to a popular LGBTIQ film but can’t share any details. Stay tuned! Are we ever likely to see you in a major Hollywood blockbuster?
My goal has never been the fame of a major blockbuster, but about being a working actor and perfecting my craft. If a role in a blockbuster comes my way I will simply view it as another exciting role to tackle.
Are Hollywood movies ready for an openly gay action hero?
Long overdue, and I watch the progress in Hollywood avidly. So many strides have been made in the entertainment industry to include LGBTIQ characters. While not really a superhero, I was so excited to see Wilson Cruz got a major openly gay role on the new Star Trek series. As far as gay people and gay roles go, the genie is out of the bottle. Some people may not like seeing LGBTIQ characters but they are adjusting. A gay action hero? I say yes and probably in my lifetime.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I love to read. I read three to five books a week – fiction, biographies and political books. I also write screenplays. My brother Paul, who is a director and editor in the business, and I team up to write TV and feature film scripts. We currently have one in development, hopefully for Lifetime, and a new LGBTIQ script we are going to either shop around or produce ourselves.
Are you romantically attached?
I am seeing someone special. He’s not in the business so I won’t embarrass him, but he is very supportive and understands the ups and downs of show business.
What’s your workout regime?
My genetics run to being overweight so I workout every single day! Cardio everyday to keep my metabolism up and then a varied routine with free weights. In showbiz it’s important to be in shape. I drink a lot of water and have been following the paleo diet for several years.
What would be your advice to young guys thinking about getting into showbiz?
Make sure it’s really what you want to do. Make sure you know your craft. Be aware that while it’s great to have a dream, the reality is that show business is hard work. I’ve worked with younger actors who have been brilliant. I’ve also worked with young actors who have been cast primarily for their youth and they haven’t done their homework. The unprepared face a rude awakening down the road. Who do you see as your LGBTIQ role models or contemporaries?
Both Greg Louganis and Wilson Cruz top my list. Greg sacrificed numerous endorsement deals when he came out back in the ’80s. He didn’t even get onto a Wheaties Box until last year and look how many gold medals he won! Wilson Cruz is just amazing. Laverne Cox, for the trans movement, is someone I so admire and, of course, Ellen DeGeneres is a pioneer. Matt Bomer is also on my list. It’s important we have role models for our LGBTIQ youth. It gives hope and inspiration. When I was a kid there wasn’t anyone on TV or in the movies I could point to and say, “He represents me!”
What’s one thing that might surprise people about you?
I love singing and I’m pretty good at it if I do say so myself. I got my start singing in a gay bar doing a cabaret show when I was 20, then moved on to those touring companies that hire young people to do a different show every night. I’m hoping to do more musical projects down the road.
THE WEDDING KISS WITH GREG LOUGANIS IN OLD DOGS AND NEW TRICKS.
BRUCE IN A PASSIONATE SCENE WITH SCREEN-HUSBAND PETER SZELIGA IN