Harry Hamlin starred in one of the first major motion pictures to openly discuss homosexuality. The former LA Law and part-time reality TV star says it nearly ended his entire career. Here’s what happened.
Telling A Bold Story
Scott Berg is an openly gay writer who was inspired to craft a story in 1982. Fresh off a book tour, he and fellow openly gay writer Barry Sandler decided to tell the story of a married man coming to terms with his homosexuality. The project was greenlit by 20th Century Fox with Love Story director Arthur Hiller at the helm.
Making Love was a little star-crossed. Hamlin starred alongside Kate Jackson and Twin Peaks star Michael Ontkean, but reportedly these were not the studio’s first choices. Michael Douglas or Tom Berenger topped the list, but both refused the offered roles. When the film was released in 1982 and, alongside others like Personal Best and Partners, it became one of the first mainstream dramas to address coming out.
Not Terribly Well-Received
The film was released in the midst of the Reagan administration, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Making Love wasn’t well-received. It had a strong opening weekend but proved to be a major loss for the studio. It didn’t help that Martin Davis, the new owner of the studio, bellowed homophobic critiques about the flick. However, the film was largely well-received in the gay community.
Hamlin Looks Back
For the film’s 40th anniversary, Hamlin spoke to People about Making Love. “I think it had been offered to pretty much everybody in town and everyone had turned it down because they thought it might be damaging to their careers,” he says. Many tried to talk him out of making the movie.
Hamlin thought the film was more interesting than the rest of his offered projects. “I was looking for something serious and something meaningful, rather than doing a movie about vampire bats invading a small town in the Midwest, which is the type of fare I was being offered at the time.”
The film marked a bad turning point in his career. “For years, I’d think was that the reason why I stopped getting calls? And finally realized that was the last time I ever did a movie for a studio,” Hamlin says. His major studio career never recovered, so he turned to Independent film.
The film convinced homophobic executives not to cast Hamlin over the fear that he may be gay. Hamlin explains, “If they were contemplating having me be a love interest to a young female star, the thought was, ‘How is the audience going to react?’ Even though I was straight, I think the perception at the time was that anybody who could play gay must be gay.”
All the same, it doesn’t seem like Hamlin has any regrets. He’s on the right side of history and had a fabulous career in his own right. “People come up and thank me for making the film and say they were affected by it and that it helped them come out or it helped them talk to their parents about their sexuality,” Hamlin concludes.
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