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Mid-Century Man

Matt Bomer

Actor Matt Bomer outside Philip Johnson’s Glass House, in New Canaan, Connecticut.

If you missed Matt Bomer in White Collar, The Normal Heart, The Boys in the Band or the Magic Mike trilogy (no judgment), he’ll be on your radar soon thanks to a few high-profile projects. He’s currently starring in Showtime’s Fellow Travelers as a McCarthy Era State Department official who develops a relationship with an anti-communist Senate staffer, played by Bridgerton’s Jonathan Bailey. And on November 22nd, the 46-year-old will be returning to movie theaters in the biopic Maestro as Leonard Bernstein’s lover, directed by (and starring) Bradley Cooper.

Despite these steamy on-screen moments, off-screen, he’s a low-key family man; he’s been married to power publicist Simon Halls since 2011, and they’re raising three boys in Los Angeles. While the SAG/AFTRA strike prevented him from kissing and telling about his scenes with Messrs. Bailey and Cooper, it seemed a good time to check in with an old friend of the brand.

“My day-to-day [style] is similar to Todd’s aesthetic…[I] try to be a gentleman, but in an accessible way. Fashion is constantly in flux, but there are staples you can ground your wardrobe with.”

Tell us a bit about how your style has evolved.
In high school, I’d see a movie at the local arthouse — like Living In Oblivion or Smoke — and want to dress like Harvey Keitel or Steve Buscemi. When I was in college, at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and then starting out as an actor in New York, I’d go to a lot of thrift shops. I was dead broke, but from older movies, I had some loose appreciation of great style — Cary Grant, Paul Newman…that Ivy League look from the 50s and 60s.

Where do you go looking for your creative inspiration?
There’s a great book by Rick Rubin called The Creative Act: A Way of Being, and it’s almost a spiritual book to me because it distills the creative process better than anything I’ve read. It’s about staying open to influences and not locking yourself into one success and repeating it. And for me those influences are different things — seeing a movie, reading a book or sitting and watching a sunset and being inspired by the colors that I see.

“Being a parent [of three boys] has taught me patience…they’re different people, so you want to give them the structure they need to survive and thrive, but also not dampen the spirit they come into the world with.”

Actors who are just getting started probably don’t realize what it meant for you to come out in 2011 when some people still thought being an openly gay leading man might hurt your career. Were there any repercussions?
At a certain point you have to be true to yourself, and let the chips fall where they may. And by being true to myself, I ultimately ended up working with all the people I wanted to work with in the first place. It’s a very personal decision, and there shouldn’t be this one-size-fits-all dictum about coming out.

Do you feel progress has been made in terms of acceptance?
Sometimes it feels like one step forward for every two steps back, particularly when you think about some of the legislation that’s been passed lately. One of the great aspects of my career is that I’ve been able to work on so many historical pieces about the LGBTQ+ community, whether it’s The Normal Heart or The Boys in the Band. And these projects have given me an appreciation for the generations that have come before me, the work they’ve put in and the sacrifices they’ve made. And that’s a sense of gratitude that I try to have every day.

The Boys In The Band,The Normal Heart and now Fellow Travelers…you’re on your way to an LGBTQ+ Greatest Hits.
Yeah. My goal is to play a queer character from every decade of the 20th century…a queer Dekalog.

"By being true to myself, I ultimately ended up working with all the people I wanted to work with in the first place."

Matt Bomer can currently be seen in Showtime's Fellow Travelers. Maestro will land in select cinemas on November 23 and on Netflix December 24.

Photographs by Kenny Thomas
Interviewed by John Brodie