30 Straight Actors Who Have Gone Gay For a Film Role

While Richard Chamberlain and John Travolta might agree that Hollywood is still not a safe place for leading men and women to be open about their sexuality, the entertainment industry has embraced and rewarded the heterosexual men and women willing to play gay on-screen. The latest example is Mickey Rourke, who has confirmed that he too will join that bandwagon by playing Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas (who announced that he was gay just last December) in an upcoming biopic. In honor of this role -- which, hell, might win Rourke the Oscar that evaded him for The Wrestler, when he lost to someone on this very list -- Movieline reviews which hetero actors have gone gay or transsexual for a role, and which were awarded Academy Awards along the way.

· Robert Redford, Inside Daisy Clover (1965)

Redford received a Golden Globe nomination for playing a closeted homosexual married to a recording star (Natalie Wood) in this box office failure from Robert Mulligan.

· Marlon Brando, Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)

This John Huston film featured Brando as a repressed homosexual (married to Elizabeth Taylor's character) on an Army base in the 1940s. Although this movie failed to win Brando any Oscar nominations, footage of his character was later recycled in Apocalypse Now for Young Kurtz. Fun fact!

· Al Pacino, Cruising (1980)

A critical disaster from William Friedkin, Cruising was based on a novel about a NYC serial killer who targeted gay men involved in the 70's S&M scene. Pacino's character is a cop who goes deep undercover to investigate.

· William Hurt, Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985)

Héctor Babenco's adaptation of the Manuel Puig novel won William Hurt an Oscar for playing a pedophile who falls in love with his South American cell mate (Raúl Juliá).

· River Phoenix, My Own Private Idaho (1991)

This Gus Van Sant indie featured Phoenix as a narcoleptic gay street hustler who travels with his best friend (Keanu Reeves) back to his hometown in Idaho.

· Forest Whitaker, The Crying Game (1992)

As a British soldier in this psychological thriller, Whitaker's character convinces an IRA soldier (Stephen Rea) to check on his girlfriend back home -- only for the soldier to realize that the girlfriend is actually a foxy transsexual.

· Tom Hanks, Philadelphia (1993)

This pivotal role in Hanks's career -- as a closeted homosexual lawyer who contracts HIV and is consequently fired -- won him an Oscar and a Golden Globe.

· Will Smith, Six Degrees of Separation (1993)

Legend has it that Denzel Washington warned Smith not to kiss another man in this film for fear of ruining the Men in Black star's career. Here, Smith stars as a con-artist feigning to be Sidney Poitier's son -- and who does not kiss another man onscreen.

· Leonardo DiCaprio, Total Eclipse (1995)

Based on a Christopher Hampton play, this feature starred DiCaprio as a 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud who engaged in a fiery romantic relationship with peer Paul Verlaine.

· Robin Williams, The Birdcage (1996)

Robin Williams starred as the owner of a South Beach drag club who, along with his partner (Nathan Lane), feign heterosexuality for his son's disapproving future in-laws.

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  • what? says:

    "You forgot about Michael Ian Black and Bradley Cooper in Wet Hot American Summer."
    Bradley Cooper is gay.

  • sosgemini says:

    Additionally, I am not sure Jay Davidson's character in The Crying Game is ever pegged as transgender. Jody just might be draq queen for all we know. There is a huge difference between the two.

  • sosgemini says:

    Oops, Dil..

  • sosgemini says:

    BTW: This complete is nothing without Mark Harmon and Michael Ontkean in Making Love. A movie that showed far more passion in the bed than the embarassing sex scenes in Bareback Mountain. Why fools consider Brokeback Mountain so groundbreaking when Making Love gave a much more realistic display of gay love and sex is beyond me. Lord how Brokeback Mountain bores me.

  • sosgemini says:

    This list is incomplete....

  • Nip says:

    Robert Downey jr. & Tobey Maguire in Wonder Boys and Robert in One Night Stand.
    Liam Neeson & Peter Sarsgaard in Kinsey.

  • SearchCz says:

    B.S. list ... does the author simply assume that an actor who has not come out is straight? Absurd - and - a needless distinction to stipulate the actor's (assumed) sexual orientation.

  • Blake says:

    It is not the straight up bigots that are the problem, but those female fans who have an issue with actors being gay.
    It is quite a trend for women to only enjoy gay films, if the actors are not (openly) gay.

  • Kojak says:

    A shirtless MattAdore
    poolside by moonlight
    twirling a red silk shirt around
    his motorcycle helmet-for-bull
    doing a mock ballet
    to Liberace playing Malaguena!!!

  • Louise says:

    You really could have left out obvious fare like Capote and Milk. Dig a little deeper - what about Daniel Day Lewis in My Beautiful Laundrette?

  • Tamar says:

    And you got this "trend" from where, exactly?

  • jules says:

    If you're gonna include Al Pacino, at least put him on the list for playing a gay bank robber in DOG DAY AFTERNOON, not a cop pretending to be gay in CRUISING. Sheesh.

  • mark says:

    Forgot Thomas Jane and Vincent Dinofrio in The Velocity of Gary.

  • PJ says:

    This list really isn't complete. I've seen a few that aren't on this list, though the only ones that come to mind immediately is Hugh Grant in Maurice, Robert Pattinson in Little Ashes, Hugo Weaving in Bedrooms and Hallways.

  • cory says:

    I for one do not enjoy watching straight actors playing homosexual parts. But I prefer it to homosexuals playing straight parts. I do not like to watch to men kissing but I hate a man who likes men kissing a woman for I know that he is a hypocrit. I truly believe that gay actors should not come out if they want to play leading roles. We as a society have not fully excepted homosexuality. I for one have not, I respect their decision but I still become digusted with the sexual act between people of the same sex. I would never hurt a gay person for they are human beings but there are so many hate crimes that gay people still need to worry about who knows what their sexual orientation is. My best friend of over twenty years is gay and I love him as a person but what he does in bed is his business and I prefer not to know. He knows how I feel and he respects my old school upbringing. Hopefully one day all people will be able to except gay people but until all barriers are removed actors should not come out.

  • Jack says:

    Well I don't know about J Phoenix, but Leonardo should have been of this list.

    • guest says:

      who in the world does leonardo decaprio and Bradley cooper think they are fooling, its common knowledge that both these actors are flaming GAY even though leonardo has a new leggy model on his are every so often and bradly oh please he treats his mother like his boyfriends foot is on fire, But please guys use a condom with the girls if you want to stay in the closet otherwise tell the girl and see if she wants to sleep with you, give the female a choice of knowing exactly what they are getting into your bearded lady situation, i believe 99 percent of straight females would not have sex with a gay man, its better if you gay gays stay with gay guys and do not involve straight womn in your escapades id deception

  • Jack says:

    Well I don't know about J. Phoenix, but Leonardo should have been OFF this list.

  • Jack says:

    That by the way is a character killer to the minds of some. Could you imagine Charles Bronson, or Clint Eastwood, todays boys have no good role models on how to grow up and be MEN. Long live the memory of Mr. Bronson. Men like that in Hollywood will never again exist.Long are the days of the tough, hardship enduring, stoic REAL MAN. Now you play the fruit and you get an oscar.

  • Jack says:

    That by the way is a character killer to the minds of some. Could you imagine Charles Bronson, or Clint Eastwood playing the sissy, today's boys have no good role models on how to grow up and become MEN. Long live the memory of Mr. Bronson!!!! Men like that in Hollywood will never again exist.Long are the days of the tough, hardship enduring, stoic REAL MAN. Now you play the fruit and you get an oscar.

  • anonymous says:

    James Franco also was in a movie called howl where he played a very gay very real poet.

  • Ashley Barlow says:

    Um. .Christopher what's-his-name(‎​the guy who played Chris Keller)in the series OZ.There were both kissing A̶̲̅πϑ lovemaking scenes in ‎​the movie,much to ‎​the inappropriate display of numerous penises in the almost every episodes.

  • Terry Lamb says:

    To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, comes to mind, with Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo

  • It seems that maybe it’s a prerequisite to making it big in Hollywood, with both male and female having to agree to do a picture dressing in drag or playing a lesbian or gay role or something like that, just saying.

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