(L-R) Adam Lambert and Theo James
Adam Lambert has clarified a comment he made when he appeared to criticise the suggestion that The White Lotus actor Theo James could play George Michael in a rumoured film about the singer’s life.
During an appearance on the US talk show Watch What Happens Live, Theo was asked if he would be interested in playing the lead in a biopic about the Wham! star, admitting he’d jump at the chance and described the Careless Whisper singer as an “icon”.
After the LGBTQ+ news outlet The Advocate shared the story on social media, Adam shot down the idea of Theo playing a gay man on screen.
“Yay another straight man playing a gay icon,” Adam wrote in a since-deleted comment.
The Queen singer and American Idol finalist has now spoken about his initial reaction during an appearance at the Sundance Film Festival, where he is promoting Fairyland starring Scoot McNairy as Steve, a gay dad living in 1970s San Francisco.
“Adam, you recently had some choice words about straight actors playing gay people with regards to Theo James potentially tackling George Michael. Explain,’ a Variety reporter asked him.
In response, the singer said it would be “ridiculous” to suggest only gay actors can play gay roles but went on to highlight a lack of equal casting opportunities within the film and TV industry.
“My actual comment – my little sarcastic comment on it – was [about] a straight actor playing a gay icon, which I think is a bit different,” Adam explained.
“I by no means think gay characters should only be played by gay actors. I think that would be ridiculous.
“Case in point: Scott’s brilliant performance in this film, which is incredibly moving and soulful. I don’t imagine anyone else playing this part.
“I just think, as a queer person, so many doors have been closed to us for so long, it’s a big step forward that these stories are at least now being told, but I hope that in the future you would also see an out actor be able to tackle a leading role.
“You haven’t really seen that very often.”
He added: “To the naysayers who are like, ‘oh, it’s acting, what about the other way around, are you saying that gay actors should only play gay characters?’
“You look at Kristen Stewart playing Diana, and that was a brilliant performance as well [but] we don’t have that many examples of queer people playing non-queer icons.
“I just want some equal opportunity that’s all.”
In March 2020, the American Idol finalist told Metro that he would like to play George – who died in 2016 aged 53 – should a biopic ever be made.
“That’d be cool,” he said. “I just feel like, we don’t know that much about him. You know, to me, it would be great to kind of explore George’s life.
“I’d give it a go. Yeah, sign me up.”
In recent years, prominent queer figures including Elton John and Freddie Mercury have been portrayed by non-gay actors – Taron Egerton in Rocketman and Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody, respectively.
It’s A Sin and Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies has previously spoken out about his belief that only gay actors should play gay characters.
“It’s about authenticity, he insisted. “You wouldn’t cast someone able-bodied and put them in a wheelchair, you wouldn’t black someone up. Authenticity is leading us to joyous places.”
Meanwhile, George Michael’s estate has denied the existence of any current plans to release a film on his life.
“To all of George’s Lovelies, fans and lovers of his music, a story has been published stating that George Michael’s family has endorsed a so-called ‘biopic’ about his life,” it said.
“On behalf of George’s family and [George Michael Entertainment] we want to make it clear that there is no truth whatsoever in this story, we know nothing about this project and will not be endorsing it in any way.”