Art Imitating Life: ‘Hung’ Star Thomas Jane Was A Homeless Gay Prostitute
Thomas Jane prostituted himself for sandwiches as a young actor in L.A.– and he’s surprisingly okay with that.
Do you watch Hung, Bettys? I don’t, but that might just be because I don’t get HBO. From what I gather, though, it follows a single father named Ray who, like so many of us, found himself up the proverbial creek when the economy tanked. Ray, however, does happen to be rather well-endowed, so as a way to make ends meet, he starts his own business (with the help of his friend Tanya) as a male prostitute. The business, cheekily called “Happiness Consultants,” takes off; and the rest as they say, yadda yadda yadda. Actor Thomas Jane plays Ray, and interestingly, in a conversation with the L.A. Times this past weekend, he revealed that he’s got more experience with the kind of situation Ray finds himself in than at first you might suspect.
During Jane’s early days as a struggling actor in L.A., he was broke. I mean really, REALLY broke—the living-in-your-car, not-sure-when-you’re-going-to-eat kind of broke. This isn’t uncommon for young actors, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. Said Jane about that time, “You know, when I was a kid out here in L.A., I was homeless, I didn’t have any money and I was living in my car. I was 18. I wasn’t averse to going down to Santa Monica Boulevard and letting a guy buy me a sandwich. Know what I mean?” You can imagine what that sandwich led to.
But while some might feel exploited for trading sex for a sandwich, Jane takes a surprisingly positive approach to it. “You’re a lot more open to experimentation as a young man,” he said, “and for me, being a young artist and broke in Los Angeles, I was exploring my sexual identity. And probably because of my middle-class, white blue-collar upbringing, I would have never had the opportunity to confront some of my own fears and prejudices had I not been hungry enough to be forced to challenge myself in that way.” He even went so far to say that it had been a productive experience for him: “It blew the doors off of my conventional upbringing and thinking and opened up possibilities for me that were akin to World War III.” Talk about expanding your horizons.
Jane has never struck me as an incredibly remarkable actor—for years, I considered him more or less interchangeable with Aaron Eckhart, and it was only after The Dark Knight that I changed my mind about that—but this? This is good to hear. He’s clearly got a head on his shoulders, and he’s also been able to get past the difficult times and move on. It’s not a tragic “oh, woe is me!” tale or a sordid “my shameful past” story; it’s just something that happened, and not only is he not fixated on it, he’s even learned from it and used it to grow both as a person and an actor. Would I be willing to prostitute myself for a sandwich? Probably not, but if I were, I can only hope that I’d be able to deal with it in a similar way to Jane.
And maybe I was wrong about him not being an incredibly remarkable actor. Maybe he just didn’t get the chance to play any of the remarkable roles when he was younger. Maybe he’s kind of like Jon Hamm: Sure, he’s been working for years, but it was only after he hit middle-age that he really came into his own and started getting to play the juicy parts.
So good for you, Thomas Jane. Keep on keepin’ on.
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s associate editor.