One of Eternals’ most memorable characters is Ben, the husband of Phastos. Part of the reason for this is because Ben and Phastos are the first major LGBTQ+ characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In addition to this welcome dose of representation, a big part of Ben’s charm comes from Haaz Sleiman’s performance, as the veteran actor brings enjoyable energy to the role. This energy has led to many Marvel fans to look into the actor and his past performances.
Sleiman was born in the United Arab Emirates in 1976 but grew up in Beirut in Lebanon. When he was 21, he emigrated to the United States and started acting in various films and TV shows, with his first role being the 2004 independent LGBTQ-focused romantic comedy The Ski Trip. At the same time, he had many roles in popular American network shows, including playing Heydar in season 6 of 24 and one-off roles in shows like NCIS and Veronica Mars.
His first breakthrough role came in 2007 when he played the role of Tarek in The Visitor. The Visitor was written and directed by Tom McCarthy and starred Richard Jenkins as a widowed economics professor who, upon finding that a pair of undocumented immigrants have unknowingly rented his apartment from a con artist, strikes up a friendship with both the couple and their mother. This performance earned Sleiman a lot of attention, and he was nominated for several awards including an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male and Online Film & Television Association Award for Best Breakthrough Performance – Male.
From there, Sleiman’s career has gone from strength to strength. This has included more TV roles, including a recurring role in the first season of Nurse Jackie, where he played Mohammed De La Cruz. He’s also lent his voice to video games, playing Malik A-Sayf in Assassin’s Creed and Suleiman I in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.
In August of 2017, Sleiman uploaded a video to Facebook in which he publicly announced that he was gay. In the video, he explained that he was coming out because a study had shown an increase in violence targeted at LGBTQ+ people. He thought that it was crucial to be upfront and stand up for the community. In the video, Sleiman says:
“I am a gay, Muslim, Arab-American man. And I’m going to take it even further: Not only am I gay, but I’m also a bottom. Not only am I a bottom, but I’m also a total bottom which means I like it up you know where. And I say this to all the homophobes living in the United States of America and across the globe. Why not? If you ever come to me, to kill me just because I’m gay, I will destroy you. I might be gay and I might be a nice guy, but don’t get it twisted because I will fuck you up.”
Since then, Sleiman has appeared in many other shows and movies, including 2017’s The State, 2018’s Jack Ryan, and 2020’s breakout LGBTQ+ rom-com Breaking Fast. In the eyes of many, Sleiman’s role in the big-budget Eternals is long overdue, as his acting has been constantly praised.
With any luck, the success of Eternals and the internet’s love of Ben will lead to Haaz Sleiman getting more roles in big-name productions. His résumé demonstrates that he is a talented and charming actor who always gives a highly memorable performance, no matter the situation. He’s a talent ever on the rise, and we hope to see him in the MCU again soon.