Hello, Gorgeous: Actors Who Have Scored Oscar Nominations For LGBT Roles

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The 2013 Academy Award nominations are being announced today, so we thought we’d take a look back at actors and actresess that received nominations (and wins) for tackling LGBT roles. It’s been an interesting journey—from a time when even playing gay on the screen could jeopardize your career, to a point where it’s practically required. Along the way we’ve been portrayed as  sociopaths, murderers, closet cases, AIDS victims, and sometimes—just sometimes—fully actualized human beings.

This is by no means a complete list—there have been a lot of sexually ambiguous characters in the Academy’s 83-year history—but if we missed your fave, let us know in the comments section. Now grab your popcorn and let’s get started!

Check out Queerty’s list of Oscar-caliber LGBT films !



Sunday Bloody Sunday
1971- Best Actor: Peter Finch

Peter Finch and Glenda Jackson vied for the attention of Murray Head in this pioneering drama from John Schlessinger, who also scored Oscar gold with the ur-hustler film Midnight Cowboy. One of the first mainstream films to depict gay sex, Sunday Bloody Sunday is notable for not harping on the characters’ sexuality, despite how miserable they make each other. It also marks the screen debut of Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays a young hoodlum.



Dog Day Afternoon
1975- Best Actor: Al Pacino
Best Supporting Actor: Chris Sarandon

Sidney Lumet captured the 1970s zeitgeist with his bank-robbery drama. Al Pacino stars as John “Sonny” Wortzik, who holds a bank hostage to get money to pay for his suicidal lover’s (Sarandon) gender-reassignment surgery. The film is a landmark of cinema: While “Sonny” is hardly a good guy, the idea that you could have a sympathetic LGBT character holding up a bank, was, and still is, groundbreaking.



Only When I Laugh
1981- Best Supporting Actor: James Coco

Based on Neil Simon’s The Gingerbread Lady, Only When I Laugh marks a serious departure for the usually frothy playwright. It transformed the dreary play into a bittersweet comedy, with Simon’s wife, Marsha Mason, starring as a boozy cabaret singer who  tries to reconnect with her estranged daughter (out actress Kristy McNichol). One of the few who can still tolerate Mason’s character is James Coco, playing a gay actor who’s miserable that he can’t find any roles.



1983- Best Supporting Actress: Cher

Meryl Streep starred in Mike Nichols’ based-on-a-true-story account of a nuclear-reactor worker who questions how safe she and her co-workers are, and meets a tragic end because of it. But it was Cher who won our hearts, landing her first Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Streep’s lesbian roommate.



Kiss of the Spider Woman
1985- Best Actor: William Hurt*

Based on the novel by Manuel Puig, Spider Woman tells the story of a flamboyant windowdresser (William Hurt) who shares a prison cell with a revolutionary (Raul Julia). Hurt, who falls hopelessly in love with Julia, escapes from his hopeless reality by fantasizing about the titular Spider Woman (Sonia Braga). He ultimately finds himself betrayed in every possible way, but the film remains a classic of the gay canon.

Longtime Companion
1990- Best Actor: Bruce Davison

Starting a wave of Oscar-baiting AIDS films, Longtime Companion followed a group of gay friends through the virus’ plague years and brought the epidemic into mainstream movie theaters. Davidson was nominated for his role as a blue blood New Yorkwe whose partner succumbs to the disease, but lost out to GoodFellas’ Joe Pesci.




Jaye Davidson
1992- The Crying Game

The androgynous British actor scored his only Academy Award nomination in Neil Jordan’s disturbing thriller, playing a trans woman who falls in love with an IRA member indirectly responsible for her boyfriend’s death.



1993- Best Actor: Tom Hanks (WON)

The AIDS movie that everybody actually saw, Philadelphia starred Tom Hanks in one of his first non-comedic roles as a lawyer fired from his firm for being HIV-positive. While many complain the film is unrealistic—and Hanks’ relationship with boyfriend Antonio Banderas is especially stilted—it did raise awareness about homophobia and AIDS-phobia. And scored Hanks an Oscar for Best Actor.



As Good As It Gets
1997- Best Supporting Actor: Greg Kinnear

Greg Kinnear plays an fey artist who helps turn the curmudgeonly Jack Nicholson into something approximating a human being. (Of course Kinnear’s character had to get gay bashed for that to happen.) Unfortunately, the film was not as good as it’s title suggests—unless you like seeing Kinnear, Nicholson and Helen Hunt try to out-quirk each other.



Gods and Monsters
1998- Best Actor: Ian McKellan

Out actor Ian McKellan plays James Whale, the gay director of Frankenstein and Showboat, who falls hard for a hunky young Brandon Fraser. Their unlikely friendship made the film rather unique in queer cinema.



Boys Don’t Cry
1999- Best Actress: Hillary Swank (WON)

Hillary Swank was the first actress nominated for portraying a trans character (Linda Hunt donned male drag in The Year of Living Dangerously, but played a biological male). Brandon Teena was something of a con artist and met a horrible end, but the film is riveting nonetheless.



The Hours
2002- Best Actress: Nicole Kidman (WON)
Best Supporting Actor: Ed Harris
Best Supporting Actress: Julianne Moore

Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway inspired author Michael Cunningham, whose book The Hours in turn inspired this all-star film adaptation. It’s an ambitious work, interlocking three divergent stories that explore how lives can connect in unexpected ways.  It’d be a major downer if it weren’t an opportunity for some of Hollywood’s biggest names to strut their stuff in queer Oscar-nominated roles: Nicole Kidman as a nervous Virginia Woolf, Julianne Moore as a despondent (and bi-curious) 1950s housewife and Ed Harris as an AIDS-afflicted artist. Alison Janney and Meryl Streep play a hip New York lesbian couple, but did not receive nominations.




Before Night Falls
2000- Best Actor: Javier Bardem
Javier Bardem plays gay Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas in Julian Schnabels’ moving film about gay life and politics under Castro’s regime. Weirdly, the film makes Cuba sounds like a great place for picking up hot guys in Speedos.




2003- Best Actress: Charlize Theron (WON)

Charlize Theron went full-ugly for her role as lesbian serial killer Aileen Wuornos, and scored a statuette for her trouble. A sensitive portrayal of a woman out of options, Theron’s performance inspired actresses to dress down to get a leg up in the Academy race.




2005- Best Actor: Phillip Seymour Hoffman (WON)

Philip Seymour Hoffman delivered a mesmerizing characterization of Truman Capote, the literary favorite whose exploration of a small-town slaying in In Cold Blood redefined modern journalism. He won an Oscar for his efforts—which sadly meant Heath Ledger, nominated for his role in Brokeback Mountain, went home empty-handed.



Brokeback Mountain
2005- Best Actor: Heath Ledger
Best Supporting Actor: Jake Gyllenhaal

Hoffman’s win deprived Heath Ledger of an Oscar for his turn in that “gay cowboy movie,” Brokeback Mountain, and Gyllenhaal lost to Little Miss Sunshine‘s Alan Arkin. But their portrayals of Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist opened the doors for more hetero actors to take romantic gay roles—and the pair won Best Kiss at that year’s MTV Movie Awards.

2005- Best Actress: Felicity Huffman

Felicity Huffman proved she was more than a desperate housewife as Bree, a nerdy trans woman forced to meet the son she fathered years ago. While Bree is one of the most fully-realized trans characters to every appear on the big screen, it’d be nice if one of these days a trans person was played by, oh we don’t know, an actual trans person?

Notes on a Scandal
2006 – Best Actress: Judi Dench

Judi Dench plays a mean, mean lesbian who blackmails a fellow schoolteacher (Cate Blanchette). It’s a return to the predatory-lesbian films of the yesteryear, but Dench is so delicious in it.

2008 – Best Actor: Sean Penn (WON)

The closet thing the gay movement has to a patron saint finally got his due in this bio-pic from out director Gus Van Sant. Sean Penn’s uncanny portrayal of Harvey Milk scored him an Academy Award, as did out screenwriter Dustin Lance Black for the film’s screenplay.

2010 – Best Actor: Christopher Plummer

Christopher Plummer got a loooong overdue statuette as a loving father who comes out as gay in his 70s. Not only is Plummer’s journey out of the closet handled with depth and humor, but his straight son (Ewan MacGregor) tries to follow in his footsteps—in embracing what life has to offer, anyway.

Black Swan
2010 – Best Actress: Natalie Portman

Portman’s Nina Sayers wasn’t a lesbian per se, but she does have a memorable, ahem, encounter with rival Nina (Mila Kunis). Was it real, though, or just the drugs? We’ve asked ourselves the same question more than once.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
2011- Best Actress: Rooney Mara

Portrayed with eerie perfection by Rooney Mara, Lisbeth Salander was the bisexual computer hacker that helped Mikael Blomkvist’s (Daniel Craig) unravel a woman’s 40-year-old disappearance. Mara might have lost to Iron Lady‘s Meryl Streep, but we sure wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating crackers.




Albert Nobbs
2011- Best Actress: Glen Close
Best Supporting Actress: Janet McTeer

This intriguing tale of a woman who passes as a man in Victorian England was a labor of love for lead Glen Close, who starred in a stage version and championed the film’s production. Sadly, she and co-star Janet McTeer, who played a working-class woman in a similar scenario, lost their bids for Oscar gold.


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  • Brian

    The sad fact is that there are so few movies where gay and bisexual men are shown. Gay men are rare but bisexual men are non-existent in Hollywood movies. It’s a sad fact that Hollywood is dominated by homophobes – including homophobic homosexuals – who filter out gay/bi male content using the excuse that it’s not profitable etc etc.

    We are considered by the Hollywood moguls and their enablers to be box office poison even if we are a small element of a movie.

  • ross3001

    How about …
    Annette Bening, The Kids are Alright
    Colin Firth, A Single Man
    Tim Robbins, Mystic River
    Queen Latifah, Chicago
    Salma Hayek, Frida
    Ed Harris, Pollack
    Chloe Sevigny, Boys Don’t Cry
    Jude Law, The Talented Mr Ripley
    Stephen Rea, The Crying Game
    Jessica Tandy, Fried Green Tomatoes
    Tommy Lee Jones, JFK
    Margaret Avery, The Color Purple
    Robert Preston, Victor/Victoria
    John Lithgow, The World According to Garp
    Marcello Mastrioanni, A Special Day
    Joel Gray, Cabaret
    Jon Voight, Midnight Cowboy
    Dustin Hoffman, Midnight Cowboy
    Estelle Parsons, Rachel, Rachel
    Daniel Massey, Star
    Warren Beatty, Bonnie and Clyde
    Terence Stamp, Billy Budd
    Victor Buono, Whatever Happenend to Baby Jane
    Paul Newman, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
    Mercedes McCambridge, Giant
    Laurence Olivier, Richard III
    Sal Mineo, Rebel Without a Cause
    Julie Harris, Member of the Wedding
    Anne Baxter, All About Eve
    George Sanders, All About Eve
    Clifton Webb, Sitting Pretty
    Ray Milland, The Lost Weekend
    Clifton Webb, Laura
    Sydney Greenstreet, The Maltese Falcon
    Judith Anderson, Rebecca

  • technicolornina

    @Brian: Not true. There is a LONG list of GLBT-friendly movies, and more coming out every year. Even Disney has gotten in on the act–while it’s not a “movie” precisely, the television tie-in to Lilo and Stitch features two male aliens who act out a Lucy-and-Ricky-style relationship almost every week; one of the kids I used to babysit actually identified my girlfriend and I as “like Jumba and Pleakley” (I don’t know how I feel about being compared to an alien whose head is a giant eyeball but I’ll take it, I’ll take it).

    We’re getting there.

  • Shadeaux

    This is a really good post. I’ve actually never heard of a lot of these movies. I’m off to Blockbuster!

  • MikeE

    even big-screen children’s animated films are getting in on the action: Paranorman

  • Larry McD

    Fire the idiot who wrote this headline:

    “Hello, Gorgeous: Actors Who Have Scored Oscar Nominations For LGBT Roles”

    It’s beyond stupid and/or incompetence. The story is about “Oscar Winners Who Have Played LGBT Roles” and whoever wrote the header wasn’t even smart enough to really read the story.

    WTF? Fire his or her ass tomorrow morning.

  • Larry McD

    Oh. My. God. I actually started reading this POS story. Don’t fire the headline writer. Fire the idiot who wrote it and can’t even figure out how to use Google.

    Your post:

    Sunday Bloody Sunday
    1971- Best Actor: Peter Finch

    Fact: Finch won in 1976 for the film “Network.”

    Your post:
    Dog Day Afternoon
    1975- Best Actor: Al Pacino
    Best Supporting Actor: Chris Sarandon

    Fact: Al Pacino’s only Academy Award was for his POS performance in “Scent of a Woman in 1992. Chris Sarandon has never won an Academy Award.

    Your post:
    2010 – Best Actor: Christopher Plummer

    Fact: He wasn’t even nominated for Best Actor, he was nominated for and won the award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

    I’m gonna quit now but you people have rendered yourselves utterly ignorant in the realm of Academy Awards, film history, and CONCERN FOR FACTUAL REPORTING.

  • ross3001

    @Larry McD: The article is about winners AND nominees, so the title and the story actually do correspond properly. Also, the citations for Finch and Pacino reference nominated performances, not winning ones. If the actor won the Oscar, the caption “WON” is generally present. There are a couple of typos/omissions,e.g. Plummer’s entry, but nothing to get so worked up about.

  • Larry McD

    Very neat job of changing the headline to include the word “nomination.” The fact that you edited it without acknowledging that you did speaks volumes.

    Your contention that it’s “nothing to get worked up about” is an indication that you’re unconcerned with sloppy work and misleading verbiage. It’s a piece of crap and you’re happy with it. That’s nothing to get worked up about only if one chooses to accept this level of work. I choose not to. From now on I’ll only check in with Queerty when you’re providing links to stories written by other people on other sites. That way I’ll have a chance at getting legitimate information.

  • ross3001

    @Larry McD: The article and its title are unchanged from, at the latest, 1:23 PM yesterday when I posted my comment(see above), about 8 hours before you posted your first one. As you’ll note, my comment lists nominees and winners. Had the article just referenced winners, I wouldn’t have bothered listing nominees. Additionally, the body of the article remains unchanged and highlights the same 14 nominees and 9 winners that it did yesterday, so the article was never just about winners.

  • Eric Auerbach

    Wow, some of you people are idiots.

  • ross3001

    @Eric Auerbach: true that, mr. auerbach

  • JonahM01

    @Eric Auerbach: Or just plain nasty..Why all the vitriol, at every turn, all the time?

Comments are closed.