January 31, 2024

The Success of Gay Actors Who Play Straight Characters

The success of LGBTQ actors in Hollywood has been nothing short of extraordinary. Whether it’s winning an Oscar for their performance in Brokeback Mountain or starring in the hit TV show Queer as Folk, many gay actors have taken on roles that would seem to be perfectly suited for straight actors. And for good reason, too. It’s not just that gay actors can play straight characters, but they can do it very convincingly.

This was true well before the recent wave of rom-coms that boasted an all-LGBTQ principle cast. Even before then, there were plenty of openly gay actors who took on straight roles and did them quite well. Tom Hanks won a best actor Oscar for his role as Philo Vance in 1994’s Philadelphia, and although the movie is melodramatic and littered with tropes, it seemed to mark a turning point for Hollywood: gay roles were no longer something an agent might immediately bin; they were now a fast track to kudos and awards.

Similarly, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal both won Oscars for their performances as homosexual lovers in movies like Brokeback Mountain and October Sky. Colin Firth is another openly gay actor who can pull off a straight role, as evidenced by his work in A Single Man and the Mamma Mia! films.

More recently, Timothee Chalamet broke through into superstardom as Elio in 2017’s Call Me By Your Name and Nick Robinson was equally convincing as Simon in 2018’s Love, Simon. And then there’s Wentworth Miller, who took on the role of a lifetime as serial killer Andrew Cunanan in FX’s American Crime Story and is currently working on a reboot of Prison Break.

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