Neil Patrick Harris is wearing nothing but a bowtie and a discreetly placed top hat on the cover of the next issue of Rolling Stone, which hits newsstands Friday. The biggest openly gay male star in Hollywood history is starring as the titular transsexual German glam rocker in Broadway's Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a role for which he lost enough weight to give him an eight-pack and a few light-headed afternoons. "He's so skinny, and I think that really gives him power," his fiancé David Burtka tells Rolling Stone. "His body is crazy right now."
Senior writer Brian Hiatt met with Harris offstage and backstage to find out how a boy from rural New Mexico was able to transition between disparate roles like teen doctor Doogie Howser, How I Met Your Mother's libidinous Barney Stinson and Hedwig. During their interviews, Harris also explained how coming out affected his life, how his relationship with Burtka works and how he learned to become man enough to act like a woman.
Here are five revelations from the cover story:
He believes coming out helped — rather than hurt — his career.
"Once all the cards were on the table, I got more opportunities than ever," Harris says. "Some actors don't get hired because you can't look into their soul and see what they're like, because they're kept guarded."
He found coming out to his family more difficult than telling the public.
Harris' brother, Brian, recalls that the actor took a gradual approach to telling him that he was gay. "It was three conversations," he said. "First he goes, 'I just don't think I'm going to date, really, for a while.' And he had some bad luck with the girls he dated early on. Probably because he was gay! And then we had a different conversation about how he likes girls, but he kind of likes guys too. And we had another conversation after that: He likes guys."
After playing the loveable lothario Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother, Harris has a huge following of straight guys who abide by Stinson's "Bro Code."
Straight dudes can't seem to stop trying to high-five Harris. They call him Barney, they drop Harold and Kumar references. "So many frat guys," Burtka says. "It doesn't seem right, in a way. But it's very exciting at the same time."
He credits the drugged-out version of himself in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle as the turning point in his career.
"Who knew that three days on a funny stoner comedy would alter my track record the way it did?" Harris says.
After years emphasizing his masculinity, Harris has had to work to play the effeminate Hedwig.
"I didn't think he could pull off the femininity of [the role]," Burtka says. "This is such a stretch for him. In his day-to-day, he's not a very feminine guy." Harris, too, said that he had always been aware of how he presented himself, especially in his Doogie years. "I have always been highly aware of how I was presenting myself," Harris admits. "Which, now that I'm playing overtly feminine and loving it, is kind of a stupid concern."
Also in the issue: Patrick Doyle on the Black Keys, David Fricke on Sean Lennon, David Pesiner on Minecraft creator Notch, Mark Binelli on the battle for the Republican Party in coal country and a playlist special featuring Aretha Franklin, Miley Cyrus, Tom Petty and more.
Look for the issue on stands and in the iTunes App Store this Friday, May 9th.