Actor John Lithgow on marriage equality, gay rights, and Ira Sach’s new film

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Golden Globe and Emmy-winning actor John Lithgow’s newest role in “Love is Strange” has him playing an elderly gay man named Ben who is forced to live apart from his partner, George (played by Alfred Molina), due to reasons beyond their control. Directed by openly gay filmmaker Ira Sachs, the film is set in New York City, and made its premiere this year at Sundance Film Festival in Utah. 

In the movie, George is fired from his job as a chorus teacher at a Catholic school after he and Ben get hitched after 39 years together. While the couple look for an apartment, they must live in separate places—Ben with his nephew, Elliot, and George with Ben’s other nephew, Ted (played by Cheyenne Jackson, who plays a “hard-partying gay cop.”)

The Daily Beast interviewed Lithgow on his role, marriage equality, the gay rights movement, and more. Excerpts from the interview below.

John Lithgow:

I’m on the side of same-sex marriage and marriage equality. I’m not a gay man, but I grew up in a world of gay men and women in the theater and the arts. Some of my best friends—no, I would say my best friends—are gay people, so I’ve grown up in a very accepting mode with homosexuality. 

But I’m also a very empathic person and I understand people’s discomfort with homosexuality—with “the other”—and as a character actor, I’m accustomed to playing people with all sorts of inclinations and impulsions. 

Everybody is related to some gay person. Everybody has a gay person who’s a good friend and a lot of people don’t even realize it because, culturally, it’s a covert thing. And that’s wrong. Nobody in society should have to hide who they are, or feel like they’re second class citizens in any way. 

There’s nothing wrong with accepting people’s homosexuality. It doesn’t do any damage. All it does is treat people with more respect than they’ve culturally been accustomed to.

I remember that in 2004, I was rehearsing for a big Broadway musical in San Diego, and a same-sex marriage ban was enacted in some state, and I was asked about gay marriage, and I said, “Ten years from now, we are going to look back and wonder what the big deal was. People will be married, people will be accepted, and the gay lifestyle will not be thought of as wrong in any way. We’ll laugh at ourselves right now.” And it came to pass! I feel like I was speaking wise beyond my years. But with society, it’s like turning around a big tanker to change sensibilities that way.

Read the full “Daily Beast” interview here

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