Harry Hamlin’s Closed-Ended Career in the ’80s Movie


Harry HamlinHe starred in one the first major motion pictures to openly talk about homosexuality. The former LA LawIt nearly ended his career as a reality TV star and part-time reality television star. Here’s what happened.

Telling Bold Stories

Scott Berg, an openly homosexual writer, was inspired to write a story in 1982. He and Barry Sandler, another openly gay writer, set out to tell the story of a husband coming to terms his homosexuality after a book tour. 20th Century Fox approved the project. Love StoryArthur Hiller, the director of the company.

Love is a giftIt was a star-crossed little movie. Hamlin was a star alongside Kate Jackson. Twin Peaks star Michael Ontkean, but reportedly these were not the studio’s first choices. Tom Berenger or Michael Douglas topped the list but they declined to play the roles. It was released in 1982, and it was accompanied by other films like Personal Best PartnersIt became one of the first mainstream dramas that addressed coming out.

Not Terribly Well-Received

The film was released in the midst of the Reagan administration, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Love is a gift wasn’t well-received. Although it had a strong opening weekend, it was a huge loss for the studio. It didn’t help that Martin Davis, the new owner of the studio, bellowed homophobic critiques about the flick. The film was received well in the gay community.

Hamlin Looks Back

For the film’s 40th anniversaryHamlin was the one who spoke. PeopleAbout Love is a gift. “I think it had been offered to pretty much everybody in town and everyone had turned it down because they thought it might be damaging to their careers,”He says. Many tried to convince him not to make the movie.

Hamlin felt the film was better than any of the other projects he offered. “I was looking for something serious and something meaningful, rather than doing a movie about vampire bats invading a small town in the Midwest, which is the type of fare I was being offered at the time.”

This film was a turning point in his career. “For years, I’d think was that the reason why I stopped getting calls? And finally realized that was the last time I ever did a movie for a studio,” Hamlin says. His major studio career didn’t recover, so he switched to Independent film.

The film convinced homophobic executives that Hamlin was not to be cast over fears that he might have been gay. Hamlin explains, “If they were contemplating having me be a love interest to a young female star, the thought was, ‘How is the audience going to react?’ Even though I was straight, I think the perception at the time was that anybody who could play gay must be gay.”

All the same, it doesn’t seem like Hamlin has any regrets. He’s on the right side of history and had a fabulous career in his own right. “People come up and thank me for making the film and say they were affected by it and that it helped them come out or it helped them talk to their parents about their sexuality,”Hamlin’s conclusion.

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