At the peak of his film career, Harry Hamlin starred as an openly gay man in the 1982 romance film Make love. And although he’s “proud” of the role, Hamlin assumed it “ended my film career” in a new interview commemorating the film’s 40th anniversary.
In the film, Hamlin played Barry, a hedonistic novelist in Los Angeles who begins a tumultuous affair with a successful young doctor, Zack (Michael Ontkean), who is married to a television executive (Kate Jackson). Zack’s idyllic life is torn apart when he comes face to face with his attraction to other men.
A movie about a gay affair was a rarity for major studios at the time, but director Arthur Hiller Make love was the kind of “serious” and “meaningful” project that Hamlin wanted to tackle – much to the chagrin of the actor’s inner circle.
Everett-Collection Harry Hamlin as Bart in “Making Love”
“A lot of people told me you can’t make this movie,” Hamlin said. PEOPLE. “I think it had been offered to almost everyone in town and everyone had turned it down because they thought it might hurt their careers. I didn’t see it that way.”
Hamlin continued, “I was looking for something serious and meaningful, rather than making a movie about vampire bats invading a small town in the Midwest, which is the kind of fare I was being offered at the time. . It was way ahead of its time.”
With encouragement from his agent, Hamlin took the role: “He said, ‘Everybody knows you’re straight, so it’s going to be okay,'” Hamlin recounted. “But I didn’t really pay much attention to that noise. I thought it was interesting and bold. I was drawn to it.”
Hamlin reflected on the negative reviews that followed, saying the reception ended his studio film career.
Angela Weiss/Getty Images Harry Hamlin
“For years I think that was why I stopped getting calls? And I finally realized that was the last time I was doing a movie for a studio,” Hamlin said. . “I did independent films but never a studio film. I was only doing studio films and I was basically doing all the casting for all the films. It stopped completely.
“It’s never really gotten the attention that I think it probably deserves, given the time it came out,” Hamlin continued, adding, “I think it just has to do with the fact that the studio system is a closed system and once they saw there might be some confusion about my sexuality, then they just said they didn’t want to take the risk.”
Regardless of the initial reception, Hamlin is well aware that he “went on to have a great career – and I still do”. Hamlin – noting the “tectonic shift” in LGBTQ+ stories since then – added: “I’m very proud to have made this film.
“People come to thank me for making the movie and say they were touched by it and it helped them come out or talk to their parents about their sexuality,” Hamlin said. “Very rarely do you get the opportunity to have that kind of effect over there in the air.”
The actor has since made a name for himself on television, playing in LA Law, The nanny, Veronique MarsThe hot zone, Mad Menand Harry loves Lisa alongside his wife Bravolebrity Lisa Rina, among others. Hamlin received three Golden Globe nominations for his work in the legal drama LA Law.