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In the wake of the Golden Globes, where Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto both took home awards for their performances in the AIDS drama Dallas Buyers Club and Michael Douglas picked up a trophy for his turn as Liberace in Behind the Candelabra, all three actors have drawn criticism for their acceptance speeches.
Morning-after commentaries in the Advocate, Flavorwire, Slate and Salon have slammed McConaughey and Leto for failing to mention AIDS and accused the stars’ acceptances of being insensitive.
Salon’s Daniel D’Addario went so far as to call Leto and Douglas’ speeches “homophobic,” charging that they showed “the worst of Hollywood.” Slate’s J. Bryan Lowder called this “fair criticism” and dubbed Leto’s one mention of the transsexual character he plays — “To the Rayons of the world, thanks for the inspiration” — “an afterthought.”
Leto also was panned for talking lightheartedly about the painful body waxing he had to undergo for the part when he playfully boasted, “I did not ever use any prosthetics in this film. That tiny little Brazilian bubble butt was all mine.” Douglas riled others by saying that when director Steven Soderbergh asked him during the 2000 filming of Traffic if he’d ever thought of playing Liberace, “Being the paranoid actor that I was, I thought maybe I was mincing a little bit in the part that I was doing [the heterosexual U.S. Drug Czar in Traffic].”
“I cringed when Douglas talked about ‘mincing,’ ” said David France, Oscar-nominated director of the 2012 AIDS documentary How to Survive a Plague. “It was gross, like saying ‘shuffling’ or ‘uppity’ in a different context.” France granted that Liberace really did mince, but said, “It would have been nice for [Douglas] to talk about Liberace as a product of his times, a gay man with huge ambition in a twisting, hostile world, a human being with whom he empathized.”
“The Leto speech was discomforting all around,” added France. “I didn’t think his bubble butt was that cute. I didn’t like the part as written or as interpreted.” France went on to attack Dallas for focusing on McConaughey’s heterosexual character and relegating gay characters to supporting players when actually, most AIDS buyers clubs were run by gays. “The film presents the gay community as being docile and resigned to death, needing a savior,” France said. “To make [McConaughey’s character] seem even more heroic than he really was, the groundwork and institution building undertaken by gay men was eliminated unnecessarily.”
“Even more egregious is McConaughey’s failure to mention AIDS,” France continued. “It’s a huge issue today — 50,000 new American infections a year, a global body count of 2 million a year. It’s the crisis through which the gay community rose. It’s a national tragedy, a global fiasco, a history written in blood. That they could enter that history and have it not move them? Idiots.”
Director Jean-Marc Vallee actually viewed France’s documentary when he was getting ready to shoot Dallas, and, sources from the production tell THR, he was so moved by it that he reached out to AIDS activist Peter Staley, who plays a central role in Plague. He invited Staley to critique Dallas and adopted some of his suggestions.
Staley had no comment on any of the actors’ Golden Globes speeches. “I’m just happy Hollywood has made an AIDS film again,” he said. “The crisis is far from over, so we still need reminding. And I hope Matthew McConaughey wins an Oscar.”
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