On the wild side: Julian McMahon has no sexual hang-ups, and he's not afraid to say so.
Luckily, the real McMahon is an open and playful sort. (Witness his sexy Advocate cover shoot, which was the gentleman's own idea.) At a sushi joint near his hillside home he plops his 6-foot-2, 182-pound self down and orders a Popeye roll, named for its key ingredient, spinach. "I need to get myself some muscles," he quips. The interviewer assures him he's fine in that department. McMahon smiles. "That's what I was fishing for." Flirt.
Decked out in jeans, McMahon looks younger than he does on the tube, but he is a veteran when it comes to kinky on-screen action. Now entering its fourth season, Nip/Tuck--already brimming with LGBT story lines--is taking the sexy doc on a maybe-gay ride |see sidebar|.
In the September 5 premiere, lonely Christian sees a therapist (Brooke Shields), who promptly tells him he's in love with Sean (Dylan Walsh), his married business partner and best friend. Horrified, our hero hires an interior designer to revamp his Wallpaper-worthy pad and "butch it up." Included in the makeover: a jutting bronze sculpture that, as Sean clues him in, looks like "a giant cock."
McMahon is very much on the rise himself these days. Now that he's notched TV stardom on his bedpost--thanks to Nip/Tuck and Charmed, a show he says he misses--his next conquest is big-screen leading man. He is about to film the sequel to last year's comic-flick smash hit Fantastic Four, reprising his role as the nasty Dr. Doom alongside a heroic Jessica Alba and megababe Chris Evans. And in March he stars opposite Sandra Bullock in Premonition, a sort of spooky Groundhog Day. All that and Gay.com idolatry too (online fans have been known to marvel at the dimples toward the bottom of his back).
"No one is immune to his charms," says the star's Fantastic friend Alba, attempting to explain all the hubbub. "I think even straight men and gay women want to sleep with him." While she offers no proof of that conviction, it's worth noting that Rosie O'Donnell is one of many Nip/Tuck celebrity fans who have lined up to guest-star this fall.
Bullock has her own explanation for McMahon-mania: "Have you seen Nip/Tuck?" she asks, c'mon-style. "Enough said." But wild story lines and McMahon's dashing good looks aside, Bullock hints that camp is part of the alchemy. When both were bored during a lull on the Premonition set, she recalls, McMahon "did a wicked impression of Hitler's hairdresser convincing Hitler to go from a handlebar mustache to the little patch he is famous for." Bullock's role? "I played the German hausfrau who swept up the salon."
"I was Hitler's image consultant," McMahon later corrects with a sly giggle, as he downs a shrimp tempura and orders himself and his interviewer a second Coke.
But arriving at this shticking point with one of moviedom's biggest stars hasn't been an easy sprint for McMahon (and not just because he was nixed as the next James Bond). True, he and his two sisters were born into privilege in Sydney, but he has seen his share of sorrow and relationship woes.
His father, William, onetime prime minister of Australia, died when Julian was just 20. His 1994 marriage to pop singer and gay icon Dannii Minogue fizzled after just one year. And his 1999 marriage to actress Brooke Burns, which produced his daughter Madison, now 6, lasted only two years.
"I'm not even on the Richter scale of where I want to be," McMahon says, adding that he relates to the journey many of his gay pals have faced: "They've had to travel to be where they're at, and it's not an easy ride." The interviewer calls it the trooper mentality. "I find that intriguing," he says, noting that he's lost friends to AIDS and drugs, "and definitely, without a doubt, I feel like I've been on a similar journey myself."
Like a lot of us, he has a penchant for stylish excess. McMahon lowers his white Hoven Ritz sunglasses, which reflect his latest obsession. "I buy six pairs at a time," he says, rolling his eyes. He drives a 2007 Jaguar Super V8, favors Dolce and Gabbana suits, and gets off on the mindblowing films of Michelangelo Antonioni. But these days the reformed--OK, "exhausted"--ladies man prefers to watch The Amazing Race with Madison. He's even thinking of trading in his Austin Powers-worthy bachelor pad, a modern multistory palace with a gym and huge windows that frame the Hollywood sign. "I think about moving for my girl," he says. "I wouldn't mind a place with a little more grass." Another revelation: "I just bought this tea set. I make my own ginger teas!"
OK, so is Christian gay?
I see him as mixed. He's such a metrosexual, you can't help but challenge the fact that there might be something a little [gay about him]. But just because he knows how to decorate an apartment, dress, and what car to drive doesn't mean he's gay. With Christian, I like teetering on that bell curve a little bit.
You said recently that you were ready to kiss Sean in the show. Will that happen this season?
Yes, in a dream sequence.
Neat! Did you enjoy it?
Well, firstly, it wasn't meant to be a kiss. But I was enjoying Dylan's discomfort so much that I went for it. I've always said we should finish the show with this: Someone turns on the shower, and you see footsteps going in the back door [of Sean's house]. Someone comes into the bathroom, and it's Christian visiting Sean. These are two guys who are obsessed with each other.
So Dylan was nervous?
A little. I don't think he's gotten it on with a guy before. He's preparing himself. Plus, my breath that day ...
You know that scenario is going to be fodder for lots of gay men out there.
And it should be!
So what percentage of you would you say is gay?
Me? It depends on what "gay" means. God ... I haven't done any fantasizing. My problem is that I'm obsessed with women too much. I have to get over that hurdle.
One really interesting thing to me is the intimacy between two men. How do you be intimate with another man who isn't gay and you're not gay? You're not lovers, but really have that soul mate--y feel with each other.
Do you have a friend like that?
I have a few. A guy I grew up with--we were in cribs next to each other--he's my best friend on the planet. This is 20 years after I've left Australia and haven't spent that much time there.
So you're not the typical Australian tough guy.
Actually, Australia is a very open society. I grew up in Sydney, which is enormously gay. I had a couple of [out] gay teachers when I was 5, 6 years old, and they're still like my closest friends. It is what it is there. I came to America and thought I would be like, "Woo-hoo! Everybody is whatever." But I did find it was more conservative here, way more than it is in Australia.
Well, your fellow Aussie Heath Ledger was able to play gay.
And so did Russell [Crowe]. I think Australia breeds a certain amount of honesty. For us, it's easy to go, "It's not a big deal." Aussies are not like, "Ooh, I'm doing sex scenes." You go to the beach there, and it's tits everywhere. Whereas here it's tops on, and that's weird for me.
But certainly you're a bit more reserved than Christian when it comes to sex.
Not really. I think we're pretty similar. I think that's why it's been easy for me to inhabit the character. But I certainly don't use people. Like, for example, I wouldn't fuck somebody to get my aggression out. I'm too conscious of other people's feelings and emotions to be that selfish.
Are there sex tips you've picked up from Christian and thought, I'm going to try this at home?
It's the other way around. Everything Christian does, I inject something from my experience.
Really? How about bondage?
Sure. I was trying to get bondage into the show. When we first started talking about kicking it up a notch this season, I thought that might be a good way to do it.
With a guy? A little high-five action?
I'm not good with the other-guy thing. I don't want to see my buddy's come face. [Giggles]
Christian has had men grab his bare tush, and a young gay marine offers him a blow job this season. Has a guy ever grabbed your tush?
Oh, yeah, God, are you kidding? Jesus, quite a few.
And what's your response?
Get your ass off me ... [correcting] ... get your hand off me! [Laughs] Then get your ass off me.
Have you ever turned down offers from closeted gay actors or just guys in bars?
Little of both. I don't want to get in trouble.
Christian is reputed to have a very large, um, prong. Is this art imitating life again?
[Naughty smile] Absolutely. Where do you think the inspiration comes from? But I hope people are thinking about my work a little bit more than they're thinking about the size of my shlong. Not to say that they shouldn't.
You like teasing the audience by playing dark characters.
I do. What I like is the challenge of being an absolute asshole to a character that the audience may love, and then making them love me. [Snaps his fingers] That's a challenge.
It's almost sadomasochistic.
[Laughs] It is.
Christian was raped last season by a dildo-wielding hermaphrodite. Was that a difficult scene?
No. It wasn't my ass. I don't know what happened, some weird stunt thing, and I hurt my back. I don't think it did that much for [the scene]. I thought it was a little cheap. I would have gone for a full, abusive, fucked-up rape in an alley over that. Something hard-core.
So-o-o, did you ever go through a partying phase?
Partying phase? Are you kidding? I started at 10 years old! I had many phases, and I'm sure I'll have another one. But career-wise I'm in a really good place. It would be stupid for me to blow it all by being a party guy.
So you're not self-destructive.
How have you changed since your frisky modeling days?
First, I can't live that kind of lifestyle. When I was modeling, I could go out all night and get up and go to work the next morning. I just can't physically do that. And won't, because I don't want to. Also, it's having a child. If you want to be a good parent, you've got to check in a lot. What do you want to do? Be fucked-up for the rest of your life, or take care of your kid and raise her, and give her the props to be the best person that she can be?
Does she know your gay friends?
Oh, yeah. She's get friends whose parents are [gay] partners. Welcome to the world.
Have you ever been to a gay wedding?
I've been to a few. Male and female. The first one I went to was the most conservative fricking wedding I had ever been to. No one cried, no one got stupid, I've been to a couple of lesbian weddings. I went through a phase when I first came to L.A. where I had all these girlfriends, a plethora of beautiful women, who were all gay. I'm sure part of my psychology was that I could turn them. A whole bunch of them got married and are still together.
By the way, I hear Rosie O'Donnell was a little shy on the set during your love scene.
Everybody's a little shy. Me, I've been doing [sex scenes] for years. I could give a rat's ass. I thought she was great. She's a sweetheart. I mean, seriously, I didn't want her to leave. She's somebody you can talk to. So easy, open, free and happy, smart and witty, silly and funny.
Mario Lopez also guests soon on Nip/Tuck. It seems Christian obsesses over his characters abs in the gym. Do you ever get body envy?
No. I've always been pretty happy with the way that I look. He has an out-of-control figure, by the way. Chris [Evans, his Fantastic Four costar] has a great body too. [They're] very trained. I like food and wine, so fuck that. I'll do my sit-ups and I'll work out and I'll clear my mind, but I'm not doing that much shit, I'll tell you that much.
Do you worry about aging at all?
No. There's something that comes with age, knowledge of years past, that I really enjoy. Not that I didn't like the boy that I was 15 years ago. But I like being the man that I am now.
Very important question: We already know you clip your chest. Do you pluck your brows?
I can't reveal my secrets. I do a lot of stuff. But I think most people in my business do. You've got to understand, you're looking at yourself in the mirror consistently. I've always been a bit of a products guy, though. When I was 13, 14, I was dating girls who were taking me and giving me manicures and pedicures. Why wouldn't you? Go for it!
How about plastic surgery?
I wouldn't do it now, just because I don't think I need to. Also, the show makes you aware of how brutal it can be. As much as you're told that you're in and out in a day, it's kind of a crock of hooey. Once they're slicing you open, it's invasive as far as I'm concerned. You're losing blood.
Do you get woozy?
Not really. I certainly went to a couple of surgeries [for the show]. I wouldn't go to another one. I'm not a big doctor guy. I hate hospitals. They're kind of prison-y. You know what I mean?
Meanwhile, back in the waiting room, Dr. Christian Troy seems to be craving a relationship. Are you looking for a soul mate?
I don't know if that exists. And if there is one, why can't there be a few?
But are you lonely?
Never. I used to be. I'm just not anymore. And not just because I have Madison. I've just developed. Time alone is lucky time. You can do anything from sleep in to running around the house with nothing on, singing songs.
Even with those big windows?
I have shades.
RELATED ARTICLE: Queerest show on TV.
Nip/Tuck, Ryan Murphy's boundaries-smashing series on FX about a pair of South Beach plastic surgeons, Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and Christian Troy (Julian McMahon), has pushed the envelope in its explicit on-screen sexuality and diverse spate of sexual orientations. Last season, Sean and Christian enlisted a third surgeon, Quentin Costa (Bruno Campos), who turned out not only to be bisexual--making a pass at Christian during a foursome and being caught bottoms-up with a studly soldier patient--but an incestuous, penisless serial slasher. (Yes, he had no penis.) Sean's teenage son, Matt (John Hensley), has been involved with a lesbian as well as an older transsexual woman (a vampy Famke Janssen). And LGBT characters regularly pass through the office, with their own various personality tics.
"Nip/Tuck deals with all kinds of sexuality," says Murphy. "I always approach my work with sexuality being the texture as opposed to being the point. I think that's how most people live their lives, and that's how I like to do it."
Season 4 promises to be queerer than ever. In a season-long thread, Christian questions whether he's harboring gay feelings for Sean, at one point experiencing a sexual fever dream. "I will go on the record as saying Christian is straight," Murphy says. "But I think it's fascinating to explore how having emotional feelings for a man can make you feel very threatened, and along with that comes a couple of very funny gay-panic reactions."
Lesbian anesthesiologist Liz Cruz (Roma Maffia) finally gets a girlfriend, albeit with typical Nip/Tuck complications. "She's mean and tries to make Liz go on a diet and get lipo," Murphy says, laughing. "You always see the prissy, gayguy body-conscious thing, but I've never seen that lipstick-lesbian looksism-ageism thing explored."
Mario Lopez gueststars as a younger plastic surgeon who catches Christian's envious eye at the gym. "It's not sexual," Murphy clarifies. "It's about Mario having this fantastic body of a 30-year-old, and Christian feeling 40 and like suddenly he's not the wunderkind at the gym anymore." Jacqueline Bisset plays a "great bisexual threat" to the doctors, out actor Richard Chamberlain appears as a gay millionaire who wants his younger boyfriend modified to look like him (a la Liberace and Scott Thorson), and Rosie O'Donnell will play a patient who needs a new ear. "She wears these huge earrings, and someone comes by with a switchblade and cuts off her ear," Murphy explains. "She's earjacked! That actually does happen."
Yet for all the lines crossed on Nip/Tuck, there was one surgery plotline that ranked a little too queer for this queerest of TV series. "We considered having a patient who looked like George Bush and was getting pies thrown at him, so he wanted to get his face changed," Murphy shares, amused. "Like, 'You've got to make me not look like the president--I used to be proud, and now it's a problem!'"--Larry Ferber
Griffiths is the TV critic for Us Weekly and writes profiles for InStyle and Glamour.
Photographed for The Advocate by Mike Ruiz
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)|
|Date:||Sep 26, 2006|
|Previous Article:||Life and death on the waiting list: states with drug waiting lists for low-income AIDS patients are getting some relief from the Bush...|
|Next Article:||The best list: what the advocate will be watching this fall.|