When an actor has a new movie out, particularly a summer blockbuster, part of the massive marketing process is interviews. The training for these Q&As, which run the gamut from magazine cover stories and chat shows to endless roundtables with press, require more stamina than the life-threatening stunts for an action movie. The same questions are asked over and over and over again. The only thing that can break the monotony is a star addressing a rather unorthodox question, such as the one confronting A-list actor Hugh Jackman, currently promoting The Wolverine: “Are you gay?”
An actor at Jackman’s level could treat this question the way his character Wolverine, a comic book superhero with a short fuse and long razors extending from his hands, might – with swift death. But he’s taking it on, as is his wife, and even his X-Men producer, all saying the rumors are untrue. These rumors about Jackman’s sexuality have been hinted at since he portrayed gay songwriter Peter Allen in the Broadway production of The Boy From Oz, though they’re nowhere near the level of the accusations hurled at John Travolta or Tom Cruise. So why even bother addressing them?
THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Hugh Jackman. This is likely not what his film studio wanted for press for an action blockbuster aimed at a teenaged male audience.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: Where there’s smoke, put out the fire – by not dousing it with fuel. Clearly, when accusations come with legal issues, such as what Travolta faced last year, action must be taken. In this case, why even acknowledge them? A subtle “That’s not worth addressing because it’s not true” would suffice. PRs might also want to remind their clients that while this might have been appropriate during the press tour for, say, the musical Les Miserables, it’s an eyebrow-raiser while doing press for an action flick. Additionally, at a time when gay marriage is fighting tooth and nail for legalization, vociferous denial of homosexuality could read the wrong way. Overall, it’s a question Wolverine should have sliced off the list.