Rock Hudson didn’t feel the need reveal his sexual orientation to the world.
Director Stephen Kijak, who explored the late actor’s double life in the documentary “Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed,” claims Hudson never came out because he had the “privilege” of being a successful leading man.
“He’s a big, strapping, tall, cis-white male, who’s a famous movie star with a lot of money. Why come out?” Kijak tells Page Six.
However, the filmmaker believes Hudson, who was born in 1925 as Roy Scherer Jr., could have done more with his fame and status to help others in the gay community.
“That’s the downside of these kinds of privileged, apolitical gays within the system,” Sijak adds.
“Instead of using their privilege and their position for real social change, they just said, ‘What’s the point?’ If we’re going to criticize him for anything, it’s not taking a moment to realize that there could be some benefit to that.”
Hudson’s “McMillan & Wife” co-star Susan Saint James shared a similar perspective in a 2021 interview with Page Six.
At the time, the actress said it was “ingrained” in Hudson to remain in the closet. “He was the sexiest guy alive. I used to say to him, ‘Such a waste!’” she told us.
“He was lovable and funny. He was hilarious and he had a life that he really, really liked. I don’t think he would have ever, ever come out.”
Hudson was a Hollywood idol whose career spanned decades. He achieved stardom with starring roles in movies such as “Magnificent Obsession,” “All That Heaven Allows” and “Giant” opposite Elizabeth Taylor.
He also found success with a series of romantic comedies alongside Doris Day, including 1959’s “Pillow Talk.”
He later turned to television with the popular ’70s mystery series, “McMillan & Wife.” His final role came as a guest star in the fifth season of “Dynasty.”
While the Oscar nominee’s sexual orientation was known throughout the industry, it was kept a secret from the public.
When rumors swirled in the ’50s that he might be gay, his agent, Henry Wilson, arranged for Hudson to marry his secretary, Phyliss Gates. The union lasted three years.
Hudson eventually became the first major celebrity to disclose an AIDS diagnosis. He died from an AIDS-related illness in 1985, weeks before his 60th birthday.
Following his death, his ex-lover Marc Christian MacGinnis won a multimillion-dollar settlement from the actor’s estate after claiming Hudson knowingly exposed him to AIDS.
The documentary “Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Knows,” which is now streaming on HBO, explores the actor’s closeted life, which included a tight circle of gay male friends and a lot of parties at his Hollywood home, nicknamed “The Castle.”
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Kijak tells Page Six that Hudson led a “pretty loose, kind of wild, fun life” behind closed doors, despite the effort that went into protecting his public image.
The film includes interviews with the late actor’s former lovers and close confidants, as well as a phone recording of Hudson’s friend setting him up with a young man.
“They’re arranging this sex date in such a polite, genteel kind of way,” Kijak says with a laugh. “I just thought it was unbelievable that this guy kind of held on to these recordings. I can only assume they were potentially for blackmail material.”
Hudson’s kind spirit also shines through in the documentary. “He’d be the one flipping the burgers, making sure everyone had a cocktail,” the director says of Hudson’s house parties.
“He was a great host and just a really generous guy and not for publicity’s sake. Time and time again, you’d hear stories and anecdotes of just a kindness, of a generosity, of helping people.”
But Kijak notes that Hudson also had a guarded quality about him that was likely due to his homosexuality.
“He’s a very conservative interview subject,” the filmmaker explains. “He lets nothing out. And decade after decade, he was very, very tight-lipped and really stuck to a script that was kind of fascinating to see.”
The documentary also examines the actor’s movie and television roles, including “Pillow Talk” in which he played a straight man pretending to be gay.
“It’s mind-blowing, really. That was the tactic, like, ‘Why don’t we hide them in plain sight?’ No one’s going to be the wiser,” Kijak notes.
And of course, Hudson’s illness and death from AIDS is also explored.
Kijak said it’s not clear if the “Send Me No Flowers” star wanted to reveal his diagnosis or felt forced to.
“There was such scrutiny at the time when he was in France in a hospital and they couldn’t hold it off. They tried to lie their way out of it. And they eventually said, ‘Look we have to draft a statement and this might be the way forward,’” the director explains.
Hudson, whether he intended to or not, became an AIDS activist and helped “change the conversation,” Kijak adds.
“Finally, there was a famous face to the disease that could get people to wake up and really start taking it seriously.”
“Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed” is currently streaming on Max.