Halston, a new limited series now streaming on Netflix, is raising eyebrows for its  explicit gay sexual content, and for star Ewan McGregor’s uninhibited and career redefining performance as the legendary designer.  

The five-episode series, Executive Produced by Ryan Murphy, focuses on the rise and  ultimate decline of American fashion designer Halston’s storied career, from the 1960’s through to the 1980’s.  

The series has gained attention for its vivid depiction of the decadence and hedonism  of the 1970’s, its focus on Halston’s fondness for drugs and sex, and his friendships  with Liza Minnelli amongst other luminaries. 

While McGregor has played multiple gay roles in the past, perhaps most memorably  in I Love You Phillip Morris, it is his performance as Halston which has shown the  actor in an entirely new light.  

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Although the series has thus far generally received only middling reviews,  McGregor’s unrestrained performance has generated personal critical acclaim, with  Sonia Saraiya of Vanity Fair writing, “What makes the whole thing work, start to  finish, is McGregor’s huge, bizarre, involved and inspired turn as Halston.”  

Ewan McGregor Feared A Backlash

McGregor’s commitment to the role extended to the nudity and unconstrained  sexuality the script called for. Halston is shown engaging in voyeurism during a  group sex session, in drug-fuelled public intercourse, as well as passionate sex scenes  with Victor Hugo, his longtime lover, played in the series by Gian Franco Rodriguez. 

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In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, McGregor discussed his initial  reluctance to take on the role and attributed his reticence to fearing that he would face  a “backlash” for his casting. Despite having no previous knowledge of who Halston  was, McGregor told writer Seth Abramovitch “if it had been a story about Halston’s  sexuality…then maybe it’s right that gay actors should play that role. But in this  case…I felt like it was just one part of who he was.” 

McGregor’s casting comes at a time when many Queer actors are questioning whether straight actors should be hired for gay roles, especially when so many LGBTQ performers are  languishing in their careers, and not being given ample opportunities due to discriminatory hiring practices. 

Despite the potential criticism, director Dan Minahan pressed forward with McGregor’s casting,  later telling Entertainment Weekly he was “constantly surprised” with the actor.  “There were moments when he would do something that was so well observed, and  so honest and so gay,” said Minahan.

At the 2021 Provincetown Film festival, Minahan discussed Ewan’s reaction to the script that called for gay sex scenes. “He said — ‘Well, that’s a part of this character,” said Minahan adding, “Ewan wanted to include a scene where Halston was arrested for indecent exposure because he was cruising in Central Park… [his attitude was that] it’s a part of human behavior, it’s a part of that character.”

 

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