Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Nigel Hawthorne

Englishman Nigel Hawthorne (1929-2001) was a sensitive and intelligent actor whose work captivated the public during the 1980s when he appeared in the BBC television comedy series Yes, Minister and its sequel, Yes, Prime Minister. His star turn in the movie The Madness of King George (1994) brought him world-wide attention and spectacularly displayed his talent for dramatic roles. Hawthorne’s acting career spanned more than fifty years, but he struggled for recognition for the first thirty years, until he appeared in the popular Yes, Minister TV series, by which time he was more than 50 years old.

He had worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1980s and played King Lear with that troupe in 1999. He won too many BAFTA awards to count, and he won a Tony Award for Best Actor for his Broadway role as C. S. Lewis in the 1990 production of Shadowlands.

For over twenty years Hawthorne shared his life with screenwriter Trevor Bentham. Although he was an intensely private person, Hawthorn made no secret of his homosexuality. Nonetheless, he deemed it bad manners to "embarrass" people by talking about it. He was thus upset at being "outed" involuntarily in 1995 in the publicity surrounding his Academy Award nomination for the 1994 film, The Madness of King George. The movie was an adaptation of openly gay playwright Alan Bennett’s play, The Madness of George III (1991). Hawthorn had starred in both the British stage and Broadway productions of the play. Bennett insisted that Hawthorne also star in the Broadway staging, refusing to give him up for an actor more familiar to Broadway audiences. Hawthorne attended the Oscar ceremony with his partner Trevor (photo below), who spoke disparagingly about Hawthorne’s outing by the press:

“We have never made a secret of it, and you news people haven’t been that bothered, because he is not Tom Cruise, and he is not Robert Redford. He is a dear, sweet, kind man, hard-working and conscientious, and people respect that. We don’t go screaming around in leather trousers and go to gay bars. We are not interested in that, not remotely. We are two middle-aged people living totally ordinary, conservative, boring lives. We don’t party, we don’t riot, and we don’t have wild times. We are not those kind of people.”

So there you have it.

Hawthorne later spoke openly about being gay in interviews and in his autobiography, Straight Face (2003), which was published two years after his death. Hawthorne became Sir Nigel Hawthorne when he was knighted in 1999. He died from a heart attack in 2001 at age 72. He was survived by his partner, Trevor Bentham. On hearing of Hawthorne's death, Alan Bennett described him as "courteous, grand, a man of the world and superb at what he did...”


Post Apocalyptic Bohemian blog:

Keith Stern: Queers in History (2009)


A 3-minute clip from his star turn in the film "The Madness of King George":

1 comment:

  1. I thought that Nigel Hawthorne was brilliant in "Edward and Mrs Simpson yet it is never mentioned.