Australian actor Guy Pearce has issued a detailed apology after sparking a social media firestorm for a now-deleted tweet about transgender acting roles.
The 55-year-old, who famously played a drag queen in 1994’s The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, came under fire for questioning whether or not only transgender people should be allowed to take on transgender roles.
On Monday night, the Emmy-winning actor tweeted: ‘A question — if the only people allowed to play trans characters r trans folk, then r we also suggesting the only people trans folk can play r trans characters?
‘Surely that will limit ur career as an actor? Isn’t the point of an actor to be able play anyone outside ur own world?’
He then engaged in a back and forth a handful of Twitter users, with some agreeing with the actors while others said that roles for transgender people are limited, and therefore they should be entitled to play transgender characters.
Australian actor Guy Pearce has issued a detailed apology after sparking a social media firestorm for a now-deleted tweet about transgender acting roles
In the grovelling apology, the Memento actor said that he was ‘in no position to complain about fairness’ because he’s a man with a ‘full house of privilege’
‘OK, so if this debate is actually about Trans actors not getting the opportunities to work like other actors do, then let’s be clear about that & state that precisely,’ Pearce replied to one.
‘Also, why should one’s personal position be relevant when it comes to casting? That’s private. It’s our own business. And as we know it doesn’t truly confirm our ability to be convincing,’ he continued.
‘I have to say in all my years of work, most people I speak to don’t truly actually understand what acting entails. There r a lot of projections going on. There r also many people out there with incredible life experience who fall flat when camera is rolling. It’s an art form.’
After deleting the tweet, Pearce posted a lengthy letter to Twitter the next day apologising for the incident and clarifying his position on the matter in great detail.
‘I apologise enormously,’ he wrote. ‘I take responsibility for that and again, apologise for starting a fire.’
On Monday night, the Emmy-winning actor tweeted: ‘A question — if the only people allowed to play trans characters r trans folk, then r we also suggesting the only people trans folk can play r trans characters?’
Pearce famously played a gay man and drag queen in 1994’s The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Pictured above
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is one of Australia’s most-acclaimed films
The Memento actor said that he was ‘in no position to complain about fairness’ because he’s a man with a ‘full house of privilege’.
While the apology has been well-received so far, some of said that the former Neighbours actor had nothing to be sorry about.
‘Don’t apologise to the mob, Guy. The cancel culture don’t seek to forgive people. Love your movies and can’t wait to see more,’ commented one person.
‘Every time someone well known apologises to this dangerous ideology, a little bit more reality is lost. Stop it,’ wrote comedian Abi Roberts.
‘Nice one Guy – that seems [very] fair to me,’ added transgender media personality India Willoughby.
‘You have absolutely nothing to apologize for. You asked a valid question and we’re correct in your assumptions. In a free society, everyone should be allowed to ask questions and form their own opinions,’ said another.
Referring to Pearce’s role as Anthony ‘Tick’ Belrose in Priscilla, one fan wrote: ‘Gay man here, and happy to have been portrayed by such a talented (straight) actor. Hope you’re well.’
Priscilla starred Pearce, Hugo Weaving, and Terence Stamp as two drag queens and a transgender woman who venture across Australia in a tour bus – with all three of the protagonists being straight men off-screen.
Speaking to Stellar magazine in 2021, Weaving weighed in on the debate as to whether or not the role should have been played by a gay actor – before claiming that at the time, ‘no gay actor wanted to be seen playing those roles’.
‘In fact, [writer and director] Stephan [Elliott] approached a number of gay actors – not that you have to be gay to play a drag queen – but they didn’t want to be playing those roles,’ he said.
Priscilla co-star Hugo Weaving (pictured) said in 2021 that any actor should be allowed to play any role: ‘Actors perform a role, which is to illuminate the other – not to illuminate themselves’
‘The logical extension of the argument is that if you have to be gay to play a gay person, then do you have to be a murderer to play a murderer?’ Weaving said. Pictured in Priscilla with Pearce and co-star Terence Stamp
Weaving added that the three actors were ‘lauded’ for playing the roles because of how ‘heterosexual’ they were – something he described as ‘nonsense’.
‘The nonsense surrounding it was extraordinary,’ he added. ‘Also, the logical extension of the argument is that if you have to be gay to play a gay person, then do you have to be a murderer to play a murderer?’
Weaving went on to say that he is glad to see that the world is changing, and is more diverse and respectful towards people of all diversities.
But when it comes to casting, he believes any person should be able to play any role.
‘There’s an insanity about the casting – the whole idea of acting is to understand the “other”. Actors perform a role, which is to illuminate the other – not to illuminate themselves,’ he said.
Guy Pearce’s full apology
I see that raising the question of gender identity within the casting process on a platform like Twitter was not a good idea. For that, I apologise, enormously. I acknowledge it has only stirred up and inflamed attitudes and made us all dig our heels in. I take responsibility for that and again, apologise for starting a fire.
This is a subject that needs to be discussed face to face, person to person and over a good amount of time where we are all heard and understood.
It is also a subject that I understand is complex and sensitive.
I want to take this opportunity to say it is very clear to me that in many areas of life discrimination, which should have no place in a modern society unfortunately still thrives. Indeed members of my own family have been subjected to different but every bit as pernicious prejudice.
I understand how my question – asking ‘If trans actors are the only ones allowed to play trans roles then are we also suggesting trans actors are therefore only allowed to play trans characters?” is insensitive.
The point I wanted to raise was one about defending the definition of acting and nothing more. Throwing the subject onto one minority group in particular was unnecessary, especially from a man like me, with a “Full House” of privilege. I’m in no position to complain about fairness, at least not on my own behalf.
I raised the question because for 30 years now I’ve had many people ask me since doing Priscilla “Don’t you think gay people should’ve played those roles?” and now many similar discussions are occurring about trans actors and trans roles. It has led me to reflect even more about acting as an artform and it’s place in the world.
Our industry is already a cesspool of politics, bums on seats funding, nepotism, and favouritism.
It’s clear a great many minority communities are underrepresented on screen and that so too are actors from those communities.
But I don’t believe artists should have to announce their personal identity, sexual preference, political stance, disability, religious beliefs etc to attain work.
I believe that to suggest ‘acting’ can only come from our own lived experience annihilates our imagination. I wouldn’t want that restriction placed on a minority actor or any actor for that matter, myself included.
What I will say though, if I am going to play miles outside myself, it better be good. And on that metric I have always been willing to be judged, as I would hope the actor with lived experience is.
None of this is straightforward. But I do believe the artistic community must discuss and develop this within itself, yes, even if that involves a little shouting. God forbid politicians or the press barons tell us what is acceptable.
Thank you for reading. And again, sincere apologies for crassly focussing on just one already harassed minority in my original tweet.