We all know that actors and actresses are often judged on and applauded for their sex appeal as much or more than for their ability to portray ‘real people’, with all the gamut of emotions that real people exhibit. We all know this sort of judgment isn’t fair but we do it anyway, or most of us do. How satisfying when someone comes along who makes it easy for us – someone with powerful sex appeal and a huge talent to go with it. It’s fair to say that Matt Bomer is one of those.
At this point that last statement will be news to most people; Bomer hasn’t gained a huge reputation and his name isn’t usually first in the credits listings. In fact it’s interesting that all but one of the awards he’s won or been nominated for are for supporting roles – and this could be a major clue in putting together a description of his career so far, and his appeal to fans of all descriptions.
Matt Bomer was born in Webster Groves, Missouri but the family moved to Spring (a suburb of Houston), Texas by the time he started school and that’s where he spent his growing-up years through high school. Matt’s father, John O’Neill 1V, was a draft pick for the Dallas Cowboys; we don’t know much about his Mom, Elizabeth aka Sissi, only that she must have been supportive of Matt’s early interest in acting.
His first thespian experience was in Houston’s non-profit Alley Theater, while he was still in high school, and he went straight from there to the Carnegie Mellon University (of drama) in Pittsburgh, PA. Graduating in 2001 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree he went straight on to New York, reportedly working in several minor stage roles until he ‘joined the soaps’.
Matt got a part in two episodes of All My Children in 1970; that role got him into a much longer gig with Guiding Light, a long-term and well-loved soap opera in which his character, Ben Reade, was one of the major players. Ben was a ‘disturbed’ young man who gained a whole lot of fans along the way – even though he turned out to be a murderer he endeared himself to the hearts of the GL audience. The episode where he strips down to white briefs has been cherished by countless fans – and was probably the first time mass audiences got a good look at his way-better-than-average body.
Matt’s next move was to a Fox TV supernatural series called Tru Calling in which he played the love interest of a psychic named Tru Davies, a med student in financial straits who takes a job in a morgue and discovers that she has strange powers of changing or preventing events such as murder and suicide.
Luc (Matt) was her photographer boyfriend in 14 episodes during the series’ first season, then he was killed, script-wise, in 2004.
Following that death, he went on to various small roles, appearing briefly in another soap, North Shore and in 2005 a film with Jodie Foster called Flight Plan in which he was a (gorgeous) flight attendant. Next, in 2006 he had a starring role along with Jordana Brewster and R. Lee Ermey in a total reversal of roles, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. This was a prequel to the original 2003 Massacre and it got only mediocre reviews; most every cast member got dismembered anyway.
In 2007 Matt had a starring role in what would be a short-lived TV series called Traveler. During an interview after that show he made the comment that he had nothing against any particular media, just hoped that writers and producers would “. . . continue to work on projects that kind of challenge artists and hopefully affect people in a positive way.” That quote could be a motif of sorts for his choice of roles in the years since then.
Also in 2007, “spy guy” became Matt’s new moniker when he took on the role of Bryce Larkin in another TV series, this time NBC’s Chuck; that one ran for five seasons with the Bryce character getting killed off not once but twice. There’s still a possibility for another resurrection, if the show’s producers should come up with further story ideas for the comedy/drama of CIA agents, a mysterious and sinister computer program called Interface and scads of nefarious undercover activities. Bomer came away from that with an even larger fan base, plus some training in martial arts.
Now we come to the stage where Matt’s career took a notable turn upward; with his starring role in White Collar as a charismatic and talented con artist named Neal Caffrey opposite co-star Tim DeKay as Peter Burke, a hard-working FBI agent. The series ran on USA Network from 2009 to the end of 2014 and was nominated for several major awards, with Matt nominated for several of his own and winning that of 2015 Favorite TV Character Actor based on his performance as Neal.
White Collar got 100% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes through its entire run, and Matt Bomer was voted TV’s Sexiest Man in 2011 by entertainment website BuddyTV Somewhat ironically it was also in 2011 that Matt got married to Simon Hall, and it was during a 2012 award ceremony for Matt’s work in the campaign against HIV/AIDS that he first announced to the public that he is gay and in a long-term relationship that includes three surrogate children. That information came as little surprise to many, but definitely disappointed a lot of adoring female fans.
Again, not too surprisingly it didn’t seem to faze anybody as far as his acting career goes; he has told interviewers that it’s a great relief to “. . . live with integrity and not have some strange split psychology . . .” of being one person in public and another at home. He said it wasn’t really by choice that he played ‘straight’ roles for ten years, and is very grateful for the far greater tolerance that prevails in the current day and age.
Back to 2011 to fill in some gaps: Matt co-starred with Cheyenne Jackson (of 30 Rock) at the NYC Eugene O’Neill Theatre presentation of 8, Dustin Lance Black’s play about two of the central litigants in the Proposition 8 trial regarding California’s attempt to ban gay marriage. He was also featured as Henry Hamilton, a 105-year-old man, in a sci-fi thriller called In Time. The film got mixed and rather ho-hum reviews; Matt’s character Henry Hamilton dies nobly early on, having given his ‘life time’ to a young man (Justin Timberlake as Will.)
From comments made in various interviews, Matt’s 2012 role as stripper Ken in Magic Mike was a bit of a break-through; his comedic talent as well as his superb physique made the role a cinch – even though he said, “It was like a stripper boot camp. We embarrassed ourselves in our own rehearsal room.” But, he continued, the group “manned up together to get it done,” Matt didn’t know at the time that he would be returning to ‘boot camp’ as a seasoned pro, in the 2015 sequel, Magic Mike XXL.
Before that, however, Matt had a supporting role in Space Station 76 (2014) and a small part in Akiva Goldsman’s adaptation of Mike Helprin’s novel Winter’s Tale, also released in 2014. Neither film made box office news, but as Matt says, it’s not all about money; doing good work is what’s important and he always tried to do his best work whatever the role or the situation.
For his role as Felix Turner in The Normal Heart, Matt lost about 40 pounds – and as he says, gained an immense respect for the people who tried to deal with and publicize the tragedy of AIDS to the gay community, which was mostly not ‘out’, and to the government. The critically acclaimed HBO movie was powerfully moving for most of its viewers; Matt said that he read the play as a confused teenager and it changed his entire world view. He won a Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actor for that performance.
It’s hard to keep track . . . but we note that starting in 2014, Matt has been appearing in the highly rated TV drama/horror series American Horror Story. He was a male prostitute named Andy who got killed off in Season 1, and a major character named Donovan throughout Season V. As of now the rumor is that he’ll be showing up in Season 6 but no details have yet been released.
The Nice Guys, released in May this year, gave Matt a chance to show some different colors, as he says, and admitted that it was fun playing the bad guy and doing his own stunts, with co-stars Russell Crowe and Bryan Gosling. He said “. . . anytime you get a chance to play a cold-blooded, borderline robotic assassin who comes in the visage of John Boy from The Waltons . . . that’s gotta be funny.” He thinks it was, and so do his cohorts in the film.
As yet another in his list of diverse roles, Matt’s latest is to reach theatres this weekend (September 23rd) with a comparative lack of fanfare. A remake of the classic Western, this one directed by Antoine Fuqua, the film has Matt in a supporting role as The Magnificent Seven ride again. The movie will also feature Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio and Haley Bennett, along with (in this case) bad guy Peter Sarsgaard.
From minor supporting actor to star to minor supporting actor to co-star . . . Matt Bomer has swooped and soared. We will see him next, according to all reports, as the iconic actor Montgomery Clift in an HBO biopic now in production. Monty Clift is an honorarium to the actor’s life and death; it will include his rise to stardom and his deterioration in what his acting teacher called “… the longest suicide in Hollywood history.”
Matt says he feels a certain kinship with Clift, and has since he first saw the actor onscreen and thought he “looked just like my brother”. The two bear a remarkable resemblance physically, but whereas Clift’s sexual preferences had to be kept secret, which undoubtedly contributed to his failing mental and physical health, Matt’s have been accepted – and even if not, he’s up to the challenge, and we say hooray.