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Harry Hamlin: Playing Gay 'Completely Ended My Career' In 1982

The "L.A. Law" star said he's proud of his role in "Making Love," but believes the film came "10 years too early."

In recent years, Jake Gyllenhaal, Benedict Cumberbatch and Timothée Chalamet have joined a growing roster of actors to score Oscar nominations for their portrayals of gay characters on the big screen. 

In a new interview on The Hollywood Reporter’s “It Happened in Hollywood” podcast, however, Harry Hamlin reminded fans that the movie industry wasn’t always so welcoming of LGBTQ themes. 

The “L.A. Law” actor starred in 1982’s “Making Love,” which made history as the first gay-themed romance to be produced by a major studio, Twentieth Century Fox.

Hamlin was hot off the success of 1981’s “Clash of the Titans,” and said he was drawn to “Making Love” for its “cutting-edge” script. But the backlash to his portrayal of Bart McGuire, a gay novelist who begins an affair with married oncologist Zack Elliot (played by Michael Ontkean), was swift.  

“Everyone in town had turned the movie down, because at that time, the idea of a gay world was still not accepted,” he recalled. “Overall, in terms of how the way that film was received, it was too early. It was like 10 years too early and it completely ended my career.”

“That was the last studio picture I ever did,” he added. “The door shut with a resounding smash.”

Harry Hamlin (right), Michael Ontkean and Kate Jackson in 1982's "Making Love." 
Harry Hamlin (right), Michael Ontkean and Kate Jackson in 1982's "Making Love." 

“Making Love” received near-universal pans from critics when it was released. Roger Ebert blasted for the movie for featuring “some of the worst dialogue one can imagine”; The New York Times offered faint praise, calling it “rip-roaring awful in an entirely enjoyable way.”

Hamlin, who is married to Lisa Rinna, eventually saw his career rebound when he landed the part of Michael Kuzak on “L.A. Law” in 1986. In 2013, he received an Emmy nomination for a guest role on “Mad Men,” and he has appeared on “Glee” and “Angie Tribeca” in recent years.  

He said he has no regrets about “Making Love,” and that the film’s boundary-pushing take on a same-sex relationship continues to pay dividends today. 

“I’m very proud of the movie,” he said. “Not a week goes by that people don’t come up to me and — I’m serious about this: in the supermarket, on the street — and they thank me for making that movie.” 

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