Jack Whitehall As Disney First Openly Gay Character Left Critics Asking Why Gay Actor Was Not Chosen
Comedian Jack Whitehall's new role as Disney's first openly gay character has left critics asking why a gay actor wasn't instead chosen for the part.
The 30-year-old, who previously dated actress Gemma Chan, is to appear in Disney's upcoming film Jungle Cruise.
Whitehall has described himself as "honoured" to be part of the 2019 release, but fellow actors have criticised Disney's choice of him for the role of a gay man.
Omar Sharif Jr, son of the late Oscar-nominated Egyptian actor, asked Disney on Twitter: "Your first significant gay role will be played by a straight white man perpetuating stereotypes? Fail! This ship should sink."
Fellow actor Chris Salvatore told Disney to "do better", adding: "Such a dam [sic] shame it's so hard to find gay actors to play gay roles in Hollywood."
Actor and producer Emerson Collins added: "It's too bad there weren't any out actors who are regularly called some euphemism for 'too camp' by casting directors, studios, networks, executives etc. for literally any role who were available for this Disney 'first'."
However, gay Labour MP Wes Streeting defended Whitehall's selection.
He posted: "Shock as actor is asked to play someone different from themselves. Isn't that kind of the point?
"Wouldn't always casting gay actors in gay roles be condemned for typecasting?"
Jungle Cruise is described by the IMDB website as being "based on Disneyland's theme park ride, where a small riverboat takes a group of travellers through a jungle filled with dangerous animals and reptiles, but with a supernatural element".
Walt Disney himself imagined and designed the first ever Jungle Cruise ride, which was in place in 1955 when Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California. He was also the attraction's first skipper.
The Jungle Cruise film is due to hit cinemas in October next year, with the cast also including Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and British actress Emily Blunt.
A source told The Sun that Whitehall will be "playing a gay man" and a character who is "hugely effete, very camp and very funny".
Last year, Beauty and the Beast featured the first "exclusively gay moment" in a Disney film, when the character LeFou displayed "confused" feelings for leading man Gaston.
Last month, Scarlett Johansson quit her role in the upcoming film Rub & Tug following a backlash to her playing a transgender character.
Commenting on Jungle Cruise last week, Whitehall posted on Instagram: "Filming is underway and I am having the time of my life with my amazing co-stars.
"It's so cool to be part of something of this scale and also as possibly one of the biggest Disney nerds on the planet so exciting to be working on a project with this much history."
Sky News has contacted both Whitehall and Disney for comment.
By Greg Heffer, Sky News
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