Image Credit: Chris Hatcher/PR Photos; Stu Forster/Getty ImagesWhile appearing on a British chat show on Sunday night, actor Mickey Rourke discussed his plans to play openly gay rugby player Gareth Thomas. But when the show’s openly gay host Alan Carr put it like that to Rourke, the actor gently scolded him. “You’re not supposed to say that,” Rourke said, pointing his finger. “When I met the rugby player, Gareth Thomas, this is one thing that he and I talked about….We’re doing a movie about a man who plays rugby who is gay.”
Okay. Granted, Thomas himself said in his coming out interview with the Daily Mail, “I don’t want to be known as a gay rugby player. I am a rugby player first and foremost.” But earlier this year, Sports Illustrated noted in its story about Thomas that the man was literally the only active professional male athlete in a team sport who was openly gay — in the world. Rourke even went on to note that rugby is “one of the toughest, hardest sports in the world to play,” and that “it [took] a lot of courage” for Thomas to be a top tier player in that sport, living with the secret that he’s gay for years before he came out a year ago. But if I’ve got this, er, straight, the movie about Thomas wouldn’t be about that part of his life?
Balderdash. Of course it would. A Gareth Thomas movie would obviously touch on Thomas’ Welsh heritage, his bald head, and his frankly rather terrifying teeth. And it would certainly be riven through with the sport of rugby. But movies thrive on conflict, and sports movies thrive on someone winning against all odds. As that terrific SI story makes crystal clear, Gareth Thomas’ sexuality is at the heart of his story; it’s his central conflict, and it’s how he won against all odds. To pretend otherwise by semantically placing the word “gay” at the end of the sentence instead the beginning is just silly.
Let me put it to you this way: Would you rather see a movie about a gay rugby player? Or one about a rugby player who just happens to be gay?