This year, National Coming Out Day happens to coincide with the release of Dracula Untold, an accident of timing that’s actually fortuitous. The would-be action franchise kickoff features in the title role Luke Evans, an actor who has (until recently) been less than forthcoming about his sexuality. But Evans, at the very moment he stands at the precipice of major stardom with roles in the Dracula, Fast & Furious, and Hobbit franchises, would seem to be living more openly than ever. He’s proof positive that the work of coming out only begins with a declaration of one’s sexuality, that being open about identity is both rewarding and deeply challenging
Evans, an aspiring star in an industry not historically hospitable to gay people, has long been living in the aftermath of interviews, conducted very early in his career, in which he described himself as a gay man, most notably this interview with gay publication The Advocate. In that 2002 interview, Evans said he refused to remain in the closet: “[E]verybody knew me as a gay man, and in my life in London I never tried to hide it.” He had no need to, as a stage actor in London’s West End.
Hiding his sexuality came later, once a Hollywood movie career began. Evans, through publicists, refused to comment on his past statements and tended to avoid pronouns in interviews about his significant others, hoping to adopt three dogs and “share them with someone else” in a 2010 interview with Cosmopolitan. Slowly but surely, Evans has risen in Hollywood at the cost of the openness he so clearly prized when first starting out.
But this week, Evans finally responded to a question about his sexuality. He responded to a Women’s Wear Daily interviewer asking him if he was setting a new precedent as an openly gay action star: “It’s good for people to look at me and think this guy is doing his thing and enjoying what he’s doing and successful at it and living his life. And that’s what I’m doing and I’m very happy.” The WWD piece makes a note of the fact that Evans’ publicists attempted to keep his sexuality (which they don’t deny) from coming up in the interview, a condition both reporter and subject ignored. And while it may not have been a full-throated declaration of gay pride, Evans’ tacit acknowledgment of his unique status — in a way, he’s been out for years — signals that things may, slowly, be changing for Evans and for gay public figures.
It’s easy to condemn Evans as less-than-perfect in the way he’s bypassed questions about his sexuality since first breaking out in movies. But Evans is part of an industry where, counterexamples like Neil Patrick Harris aside, queerness is a major strike against a star. It’d be a better world if Luke Evans felt empowered to speak openly about his sexuality, just as it would be if former child star Raven-Symoné didn’t make a show of rejecting labels like “lesbian” in acknowledging that she dates women.
But Evans’s refusal, now, to deny or dissemble signals a step forward of sorts. He may not be the gay action hero we want, but he’s the one we have, and one we can only hope grows still more comfortable. In Evans, gay people who’ve spent years trying to grow comfortable in the world can see themselves. He’s undergoing a process that’s often circuitous and halting. In struggling with how to define himself and ending up, for now, in a place of acceptance and the beginnings of openness, the musclebound vampire has never seemed more like an everyman.