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28 Actors Who Have Scored Oscar Nominations For LGBT Roles


The 2013 Academy Award nominations are being announced today, so we thought we’d take a look back at actors and actresses 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 they have 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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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