11 STRAIGHT STARS WHO WON OSCARS FOR PLAYING GAY
UPDATE: On Sunday, Mahershala Ali, Rami Malek & Olivia Colman became the 12th, 13th & 14th straight stars to win Oscars for playing LGBT characters.
Sunday is the Gay Super Bowl and Adam Levine will not be taking off his shirt!
And while this year’s Oscar ceremony has been plagued with a series of misfires, starting with the whole Kevin Hart homophobic tweets debacle, it promises to deliver plenty of gay content with the usual A-list red carpet arrivals and performances by Lady Gaga, Bette Midler,
Kendrick Lamar & SZA, Jennifer Hudson, and Adam Lambert with Queen.
In addition, seven of the 20 acting nominees – Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Mahershala Ali (Green Book), Monique Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone (The Favourite), Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me) – portray LGBT characters while being actively straight in their private lives. Progressive!
While that’s all fine and good, this year, unless alleged bisexual Lady Gaga wins for Best Actress, there will once again be no openly LGBT star taking home the gold for acting. In fact, no OPENLY GAY person has ever won an Oscar for acting.
Although there have been several openly LGBT Oscar winners including Sam Smith (song), Elton John (song), Scott Rudin (film), Bill Condon (screenplay), Melissa Etheridge (song) and director Pedro Almodovar (foreign-language film, original screenplay), none have been in the acting categories.
LGBT thespians like Jodie Foster, Kevin Spacey, Joel Grey, Charles Laughton, Janet Gaynor and Marlon Brando have all won Oscars for acting, but were not publicly out at the time, if ever.
The only one that comes close is Sir John Gielgud, who won Best Supporting Actor in 1982 for Arthur. But whether he was out at the time is debateable, as he never publicly discussed his private life.
So while there’s been no truly loud & proud queer acting winners, there have been nearly a dozen openly straight actors who have received the coveted 8.5 lb golden trophy of a chiseled, bald, muscular man for playing an LGBT character. A character, who, more often than not, leads a tragic life and winds up dead by the end. For your consideration, bury your gays!
And while I have no problem with straight actors playing gay, a shout out to the community in your acceptance speech is always a welcome gesture.
So here are the 11 stars who bravely went gay for pay, won an Oscar, and then gave LGBT inclusive (and not-so inclusive) acceptance speeches.
*WARNING! SPOILER ALERTS INCLUDED!*
1. William Hurt in 1986 for Kiss of the Spider-Woman
Hurt, a white cis straight man, won Best Actor for playing Molina, a South American transgender woman jailed in a Brazilian prison for having sex with a minor. After working for the secret police and falling in love with a fellow prisoner (sexy Raul Julia), she is set free. Not long after, Molina winds up shot by revolutionaries and her body dumped in a pit by police. Roll credits!
In his acceptance speech, Hurt made no specific mention of the LGBT community, but did thank “the courageous people in Brazil with whom I made this film.”
Side note: Brazilian actress Sonia Braga shines as the aforementioned Spider-Woman and who Sex and the City fans might recognize as Samantha’s lesbian lover in a few episodes.
2. Tom Hanks in 1994 for Philadelphia
Hanks won his first Best Actor Oscar playing Andy Beckett, a gay corporate lawyer who sues his firm after being fired for AIDS discrimination. With the help of a homophobic personal injury lawyer (played by Denzel Washington), Beckett winds up winning $5 million in damages. Denzel’s character manages to overcome his homophobia just in time to allow himself to physically touch Beckett’s face, who then dies in a hospital surrounded by his lover Miguel (Antonio Banderas). Cue the Springsteen song!
In his acceptance speech, Hanks thanked his gay drama teacher and a fellow gay former classmate. Those words would later lead to the inspiration for the 1997 film In & Out starring Kevin Kline.
I mention their names because they are two of the finest gay Americans, two wonderful men that I had the good fortune to be associated with, to fall under their inspiration at such a young age. I wish my babies could have the same sort of teacher, the same sort of friends.
But it’s because of Hanks’ emotional homage to the millions of people who had died from AIDS that this speech is often considered one of the best in Oscars history.
I know that my work in this case is magnified by the fact that the streets of heaven are too crowded with angels. We know their names. They number a thousand for each one of the red ribbons that we wear here tonight. They finally rest in the warm embrace of the gracious creator of us all. A healing embrace that cools their fevers, that clears their skin, and allows their eyes to see the simple, self-evident, common sense truth that is made manifest by the benevolent creator of us all and was written down on paper by wise men, tolerant men, in the city of Philadelphia two hundred years ago. God bless you all. God have mercy on us all. And God bless America.
3. Hilary Swank in 2000 for Boys Don’t Cry
The former Beverly Hills 90210 star won her first Best Actress Oscar portraying Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was brutally raped and murder by two cis men in Nebraska in 1993.
While forgetting to thank her then husband Chad Lowe made all the headlines, her final words are what truly needed to be lauded, especially back in March 2000.
I want to thank Brandon Teena for being such an inspiration to us all. His legacy lives on through our movie to remind us to always be ourselves, to follow our hearts, to not conform. I pray for the day when we not only accept our differences but celebrate our diversity.
4. Nicole Kidman in 2003 for The Hours
Kidman notched Best Actress by donning a prosthetic schnoz (The Kidman Nose™) to play bipolar, bisexual author Virginia Woolf, who committed suicide by drowning in 1941.
In her speech, Kidman didn’t reference gays, Woolf, or her nose, but she did use part of it to honor families and soldiers torn apart by the start of the recent war with Iraq.
Fun fact: Due to the invasion, traditional red carpet arrivals were cancelled & no one did press interviews. #Homophobic
Another standout moment from her speech was that Kidman was accompanied in the audience by Bella, her rarely seen Scientologist daughter with ex Tom Cruise. That’s gotta count as some sort of gay bonus points, right?
5. Charlize Theron in 2004 for Monster
Theron gained weight, lost her brows and cancelled her Dry Bar appointments to transform into lesbian serial killer Aileen Wournos. While Theron became the first African woman to win Best Actress, in real life Wournos was exectued by lethal injection in 2002.
As would be expected, Theron made no mention of Wournos in her speech, but she did thank: “Tony G for transforming me.” So there’s that.
6. Philip Seymour Hoffman in 2006 for Capote
Hoffman took home Best Actor for playing out gay author Truman Capote in the biopic that centers on the events that led up to writing In Cold Blood. Sadly, Hoffman and Capote’s real-life struggles with drugs and alcohol were factors in both of their early deaths.
Hoffman didn’t bring up Capote in the speech, but did give an especially poignant shout out to his mother and what mama’s boy doesn’t love that? Totes gay!
7. Penelope Cruz in 2009 for Vicky Cristina Barcelona
The Spanish star won Best Supporting Actress for her role as spirited bisexual Maria Elena, who begins a thrupple relationship with her real-life husband Javier Bardem and Scarlett Johansson in the Woody Allen romcom. Not only did she get an Oscar, but her character is still alive at the end. Baby steps!
In her speech, Cruz thanked out gay director Pedro Almodovar, with whom she often works, for creating many great female characters and letting her be apart of “so many of his adventures.”
8. Sean Penn in 2009 for Milk
Madonna’s ex-husband won his second Best Actor Oscar for portraying slain gay rights icon Harvey Milk.
The 2009 ceremomy occurred just months after Prop 8 passed banning gay marriage in California and Penn used his time to call out the
I think it’s a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue in that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.
Also of note, out Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
9. Natalie Portman in 2011 for Black Swan
Portman danced away with Best Actress for playing a ballerina in the psychological thriller, but it was her trippy girl-on-girl sex scene with Mila Kunis that really gets a standing, or is it lying down, O. It’s unclear what is real or not in the whole movie, but her fate by the end of the film doesn’t look good.
While she didn’t acknowledge her sapphic scene, Portman did give shout outs to “people on the film that no one ever talks about that are your heart and soul every day” like hair & makeup (gay), wardrobe stylists (probably gay) and camera operators (definitely lesbians!).
10. Christopher Plummer in 2012 for Beginners
Plummer won Best Supporting Actor for playing an elderly widower who comes out of the closet following the death of his wife. Although the character dies from cancer, he does manage to find love with a younger man and forges a new closer relationship with his adult son (Ewan McGregor).
After winning his first Oscar at the young age of 82, Plummer gave a career’s worth of thank yous to his handlers and family, but no nod to the gay community.
Fun fact: Plummer was nominated for Best Supporting Actor again in 2018 for All the Money in the World, a role he took only after Kevin Spacey was edited out of the completed film due to his sexual assault allegations. Oh and don’t forget, Spacey finally came out publicly while responding to those allegations. How lovely!
11. Jared Leto in 2014 for Dallas Buyer’s Club
Leto won Best Supporting Actor for playing Rayon, a drug addicted HIV-positive trans woman who eventually dies from AIDS-related complications.
Unlike his fellow Oscar-winning co-star Matthew McConaughey, Leto finished his acceptance speech by addressing the epidemic and those who inspired the role.
This is for the 36 million people who have lost the battle to AIDS. And to those of you out there who have ever felt injustice because of who you are or who you love, tonight I stand here in front of the world with you and for you.
Almost Extra Credit:
Cate Blanchett in 2005 for The Aviator
Blanchett won Best Supporting Actress for playing Katharine Hepburn in the Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) biopic. While the legendary film icon’s sexuality had been the subject of rumors throughout her career, it was not addressed in the Martin Scorsese film.
Obviously, her speech makes no reference to Katharine’s sexuality or anything LGBT related.
But Blanchett would go on to receive her 7th Oscar nomination for playing a divorcée who begins a lesbian relationship with a younger woman in Carol. Suprisingly, it’s one LGBT movie that doesn’t end tragically.
Now we’ll have to wait until Sunday to see this if this list needs to be updated with Rami, Mahershala, Olivia, et al.
As far as finally having an out LGBT Oscar winner for acting, that’s just one more positive thing I’m hoping to see happen in America in 2020.
The 91st Academy Awards air Sunday at 8pm ET/5pm PT on ABC.