The stars who went gay for pay

Daniel Radcliffe attends the UK premiere of 'What If' at The Odeon West End on August 12, 2014 in London, England.

Films provide an important voice for LGBTQ+ people as they offer much-needed representation in the media, and actors do a vital job bringing the stories of queer characters to life.

However, very few high-profile LGBTQ+ roles are actually played by out LGBTQ+ actors. Actors who are open about their sexuality often struggle to carve a successful career path for themselves – a fact that is not helped by their heterosexual counterparts filling up roles that some might argue should be reserved for them.

Here are just some of the Hollywood stars who have gone ‘gay for pay’ on the silver screen, as well as some of the out gay actors who have made a name for themselves playing it straight.

1. Ewan McGregor in I Love You Phillip Morris (2009)

Ewan McGregor, who is featured on a list of the 10 biggest penises in hollywood
Ewan McGregor played gay prison inmate Phillip Morris in 2009’s I Love You Phillip Morris. (Keith Tsuji/Getty)

Ewan McGregor plays prison inmate Phillip Morris this black comedy based on the story of the real-life 1980s and 90s story of a con artist and repeated prison escapee Steven Jay Russell, played by Jim Carrey.

Phillip and Steven share a rollercoaster love story about forgiveness and ill health after the pair become romantically involved in prison.

After they are both released, Steven is caught embezzling and the pair are sent back to prison. Phillip is enraged by his actions and tells him that he does not want to see him again.

He later learns that Steven is dying of AIDS-related complications, and phones him to tell him that he is still mad but still loves him.

Steven later “dies” – but it turns out his illness is just another ruse so that he can get out of jail and see Phillip once more.

2. Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game (2014)

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch attends the "The Imitation Game" New York Premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on November 17, 2014 in New York City.
Benedict Cumberbatch played Second World War code breaker Alan Turing in 2014’s The Imitation Game.(Jim Spellman/WireImage/Getty)

Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing in the loosely biographical film about the gay mathematician who deciphered the ‘Enigma’ code during the Second World War.

The film follows Turing from his days as a bullied schoolboy to finally finding his feet when he develops a friendship with Christopher Morcom (Jack Bannon), who introduces him to cryptography.

As Turing becomes an expert in the subject, he also develops romantic feelings for Morcom, who dies suddenly and unexpectedly from tuberculosis.

Turing starts work at Bletchley Park after Britain declares war on Germany in 1939 and begins to work on the infamous Enigma machine which helps to break the Nazi’s secret military code.

In the 1950s, Turing is convicted of indecency and forced to undergo chemical castration. The film ends as one of his colleagues visits him and sees his physical and mental deterioration.

In real life, Turning took his own life in 1954, two years after his conviction.

3. James Wilby in Maurice (1987)

James Wilby acts as Maurice Hall in the film 'Maurice' (directed by James Ivory) in London, December 1986.
James Wilby played the titular character in 1987’s Maurice. (Mikki Ansin/Getty)

The acclaimed film adaptation of E. M. Forster’s 1971 novel charts the Edwardian-era love story of Cambridge University students Maurice Hall (played by James Wilby) and Clive Durham (Hugh Grant).

Maurice and Durham’s relationship grows closer after Maurice drops out of Cambridge to pursue a career as a stockbroker in London.

However, they break their relationship off after their close friend Lord Risley (Mark Tandy) is arrested and sentenced to six months hard labour for soliciting sex from a soldier.

Maurice undergoes gay “conversion” therapy but it is, obviously, unsuccessful and Maurice meets gamekeeper Alec Scudder (Rupert Graves) who he becomes intimate with.

The two flee England to live in a country where homosexuality is no longer criminalised, while Clive is left to reminisce about his relationship with Maurice.

4. Meryl Streep in The Hours (2002)

Meryl Streep arrives for the UK film premiere of 'Florence Foster Jenkins' at Odeon Leicester Square on April 12, 2016 in London, England.
Meryl Streep played a lesbian woman in 2002’s The Hours. (Getty)

Meryl Streep stars in this 2002 film adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s 1999 novel as Clarissa Vaughan, a lesbian woman living in New York.

The film focuses on the stories of three different generations of women but Clarissa’s story is about her caring for a close friend and former lover who has contracted HIV and is dying from an AIDS-related illness.

Streep’s scenes centre around the character planning a party for him in his last days.

5. River Phoenix in My Own Private Idaho (1991)

Actor River Phoenix (1970 - 1993), star of "Stand By Me," playfully poses during a 1988 Los Angeles, California, photo portrait session. Phoenix, a rising young film star, tragically died in 1993 outside a Sunset Strip nightclub of a drug overdose.
The late River Phoenix played a gay hustler in 1991’s My Own Private Idaho (George Rose/Getty)

The late River Phoenix stars as gay hustler Mike Waters in My Own Private Idaho, which is loosely based on William Shakespeare’s ‘Henriad’ series of plays; Henry IV parts one and two, and Henry V.

Phoenix’s character, Mike, suffers from narcolepsy and we follow his journey as he travels across the US from Oregon to Idaho in the search for his estranged mother.

He takes the journey with his close friend Scott (Keanu Reeves), and as they travel Mike behind to fall in love with him.

Their journey takes them to Italy, where Mike’s mother has migrated to search for her own family. While there, Mike realises that his mother has returned to the US but Scott falls in love with a woman. Mike returns to the US without him.

6. Tom Hanks in Philadelphia (1993)

Tom Hanks in a black jacket and scarf at the premiere of Philadelphia
Tom Hanks at the premiere of Philadelphia. (Getty/Ron Galella)

Tom Hanks won an Oscar for his portrayal of Andrew Beckett, a closeted gay lawyer who is a senior associate at one of the largest corporate law firms in the city.

While balancing his secret and professional lives, Beckett contracts AIDS.

Beckett is later fired and he believes that someone in his firm sabotaged him because of the diagnosis, and so he launches a lawsuit against the firm.

During the trial, he becomes weaker and is eventually hospitalised but the jury decides to rule in his favour and $5 million in damages is paid out to him.

Hanks has since said he would not take on the role today as a straight man, saying: “Could a straight man do what I did in Philadelphia now? No, and rightly so.”

7. Antonio Banderas in Philadelphia (1993)

Tom Hanks feeds a baby while Antonio Banderas watches in a scene from the film 'Philadelphia', 1994.
Antonio Banderas (left) with Tom Hanks in 1993’s Philadelphia. (TriStar/Getty Images)

Antonio Banderas plays Miguel Álvarez, partner of Tom Hanks’ Andrew Beckett, in Philadelphia.

The award-winning drama was one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to acknowledge the HIV/AIDS Crisis and the implications it had for homophobia in society and the LGBTQ+ community.

Philadelphia marked Banderas’ big Hollywood breakthrough. He had previously played a gay man in Pedro Almodóvar‘s 1987 Spanish comedy thriller Law of Desire – a role which saw him kiss another man on screen for the first time.

8. James Franco in Milk (2008)

Actor James Franco poses with the Best Supporting Male award for "MILK" at the 24th Annual Film Independent's Spirit Awards held at Santa Monica Beach on February 21, 2009 in Santa Monica, California.
James Franco delivered an award-winning turn as LGBTQ+ activist Harvey Milk’s lover in 2008’s Milk. (Jason Merritt/Getty)

Milk is a biographical film based on the life of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk (played in the film by Sean Penn), who in 1977 became the first out gay person to be elected to public office in California.

Franco plays Scott Smith, Harvey Milk’s lover. Smith inspires Milk to move to San Francisco in hope of finding a community that accepts their relationship.

Smith serves as Milk’s campaign manager, but he grows frustrated with Milk’s devotion to politics, and he leaves him.

Milk was written by Dustin Lance Black, who won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for the film in 2009. Black would go on to marry British Olympic diver Tom Daley in 2017.

9. Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl (2015)

Eddie Redmaybe wears a white button-up shirt with a light brown jacket as he poses for the camera at an event
Eddie Redmayne played transgender pioneer Lili Elbe in 2015’s The Danish Girl. (Getty)

Redmayne plays trans landscape artist Lili Elbe in this Oscar-winning LGBTQ+ drama set in mid-1920s Copenhagen.

It is based the life of Danish painter Lili Elbe, who was one of the first known people to undergo gender affirmation surgery surgery.

The Danish Girl follows Lili as she comes to terms with her gender identity while being supported by her wife Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander).

She begins to seek help from doctors and meets one which offers to help her with gender affirmation surgery, but the artist tragically dies following complications with her second operation.

10. Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain (2005)

A still from the 2005 film Brokeback Mountain showing actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger dressed in their cowboy outfits with Ledger standing close to Gyllenhaal with his arm around him
Brokeback Mountain was groundbreaking for its depiction of a gay relationship in a mainstream Hollywood film. (Screengrab/River Road Entertainment/Focus Features)

Gyllenhaal plays Jack Twist in director Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning adaptation of Annie Proulx’s 1997 novel.

Jack is working as rodeo cowboy in 1960s Wyoming hen he makes a pass at Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger) after a night of heavy drinking, with the pair quickly developing a deep emotional and sexual relationship.

They part ways and go on to marry women, but after four years Jack visits Ennis and he tries to convince him that they should spend their lives together.

Instead, the lovers organise regular fishing trips where they can be together, but the story takes a tragic turn after Jack dies in what is implied to be a homophobic attack.

11. Dame Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal (2006)

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 27:  Dame Judi Dench during the unveiling of a new plaque commemorating her friend and fellow actor Sir John Gielgud on Cowley Street in Westminster on April 27, 2017 in London, United Kingdom.
Judi Dench played a schoolteacher with a homoerotic obsession in 2006’s Notes on a Scandal. (John Phillips/Getty)

Judi Dench plays lesbian history teacher Barbara Covett in the 2006 psychological thriller Notes on a Scandal.

It follows Barbara, a spinster and history teacher in London who takes comfort in writing in her diary. She begins to develop feelings for her new colleague, an art teacher named Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett).

However, things turn sour after Barbara realises that Sheba is having a relationship with an underage student, using this knowledge to manipulate her new friend.

After Barbara leaks the affair, both she and Sheba are fired. Sheba’s husband leaves her and the art teacher is sentenced to 10 months in prison, with the film ominiosuly ending with Barbara striking up conversation with another younger woman.

12. Julianne Moore in The Kids Are Alright (2010)

Julianne Moore attends the "The Kids Are All Right" premiere during The 5th International Rome Film Festival at Auditorium Parco Della Musica on November 1, 2010 in Rome, Italy.
Julianne Moore played a lesbian parent in 2009’s The Kids Are Alright. (Elisabetta A. Villa/WireImage/Getty)

Julianne Moore plays Jules, a lesbian woman married to Nic (Annette Bening), who together have two children conceived using a sperm donor.

When the children get older they feel the need to contact the sperm bank to meet their donor father.

Paul (Mark Ruffalo) is revealed as the dad and he quickly becomes enthusiastic about being in his kids’ lives, however, the mothers don’t find out about their relationship straight away.

Jules and Nic invite Paul over and Jules and Paul click. Nic is still cold towards him as she feels his presence undermines her authority over their children.

Jules soon embarks on an affair with Paul, and while the whole family are at his house Nic finds her partner’s hair in his bed and bathroom.

Nic confronts her partner and the family fall out. It ends with the two mothers dropping their daughter off to start college, and shows them holding each other affectionately, suggesting they’ve overcome the infidelity.

13. Robin Williams in The Birdcage (1996)

Robin Williams in The birdcage by Mike Nichols
Robin Williams played the owner of a drag club in 1996’s The Birdcage. (Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty)

Williams plays the out gay owner of a South Beach drag club, Armand Goldman.

Goldman and his flamboyant partner Albert live together above the club and lead a lavish life together.

However, he is forced to play straight when his son’s future ultraconservative politician in-laws come to visit.

The gay couple uproots their life to pretend to be brothers as the family visit, but the night of the visit ends in turmoil as the conservative family are forced to dress in drag in order to escape the press.

14. Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Actor Heath Ledger during a press conference to promote his new film 'A Knight's Tale' at the Hyde Park Barracks on April 19, 2001 in Sydney, Australia.
Heath Ledger played ranch hand Ennis del Mar in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain. (Peter Carrette Archive/Getty)

Ledger played Ennis del Mar, a ranch hand who falls in love with Jack Twist (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) while working together.

Despite their powerful connection, Ennis refuses to pursue a relationship with Jack as he is haunted by a childhood memory of the torture and murder of two men believed to be homosexual.

Their respective marriages to women (played by Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway) fall apart and while they still frequently see each other but begin to drift apart.

Ennis tries to reach out to Jack once more but is devastated to learn of his death, which he fears was a result of a homophobic attack.

15. Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote (2005)

Philip Seymour Hoffman, winner of award for Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for ?Capote? at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California
Philip Seymour Hoffman won an Oscar for his portrayal of gay writer Truman Capote in 2005’s Capote. (Michael Caulfield/WireImage/Getty)

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays gay author Truman Capote in the biographical film about his time writing the 1966 book In Cold Blood.

Capote becomes attached to two convicts who have been charged with killing the Clutter Family. He frequently visits them to try and understand the evening they were killed.

He develops a bond with convict Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and his soft tendencies, but the whole time he grows further away from his life at home.

16. Cher in Silkwood (1983)

American actors Cher and Val Kilmer arrive at the 56th Academy Awards, where Cher is nominated for Best Supporting Actress in Silkwood.
Cher (right, pictured with Val Kilmer) was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in 1983’s Silkwood. (Bill Nation/Sygma via Getty)

Cher plays the lesbian character Dolly Pelliker in Silkwood, a film about the life of Karen Silkwood, a nuclear whistleblower and labour union activist who died in mysterious circumstances

Silkwood was a plutonium factory worker and is played by Meryl Streep. Cher plays Dolly, Karen’s lesbian friend.

The film marked a turning point in the LGBTQ+ icon’s career as one of the more “serious” films she did.

17. Sean Penn in Milk (2008)

(L-R) Actress Kate Winlset, winner Best Actress for "The Reader," actor Sean Penn, winner Best Actor for "Milk," and actress Penelope Cruz, winner Best Supporting Actress for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" pose in the press room at the 81st Academy Awards at The Kodak Theatre on February 22, 2009 in Hollywood, California.
Sean Penn (centre) won an Oscar for his portrayal of LGBTQ+ pioneer Harvey Milk in 2008’s Milk. (Getty)

Sean Penn plays the title character Harvey Milk in the film biopic which documents his political career, from his early failed political campaigns up until his assassination in 1978.

It also looks at his relationship with Scott Smith (James Franco) and Jack Lira (Diego Luna), as well as his working relationship with Dan White (Josh Brolin), a conservative supervisor on the San Francisco Board.

White eventually shoots Milk after he becomes enraged at the gay rights movement.

18. Charlize Theron in Monster (2003)

Charlize Theron, winner for Best Actress for "Monster"
Charlize Theron won an Oscar for her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in 2003’s Monster. (Getty)

Charlize Theron plays the role of Aileen Wuornos, a real-life sex worker who was executed in 2002 for killing six men.

Theron received critical acclaim and won seventeen awards for her portrayal, including the Academy Award for Best Actress, Golden Globe Award for Best Actress and the Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress.

The biographical film follows Wournos after she kills a client that raped her and her attempts to get out of sex work.

However, her lack of qualifications and criminal history pushes her back into sex work, and she begins to rob and kill her clients as she suffers PTSD from the rape.

19. Christina Ricci in Monster (2003)

Christina Ricci attends the 75th Directors Guild of America Awards at The Beverly Hilton on February 18, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California.
Christina Ricci starred opposite Charlize Theron in 2003’s Monster. (Getty)

Christina Ricci plays Selby Wall, the girlfriend of Aileen Wuornos in Monster.

The book which the film is adapted from is written by Tyria Moore (the real-life girlfriend of Wuornos who the character Selby Wall is based upon).

Wall lives off the money that Wuornos makes my robbing and killing her clients, without realising the crimes her partner was committing.

Wall eventually testifies against her partner, leading to a death sentence being handed to Wuornos.

20. Jim Carrey in I Love You Phillip Morris (2009)

Jim Carrey attends the Los Angeles Premiere Screening of "Sonic The Hedgehog 2" at Regency Village Theatre on April 05, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
Jim Carrey played gay con artist Steven Russell in 2009’s I Love You Philip Morris. (Getty)

Jim Carrey went gay for pay by playing Steven Jay Russell in the comedy-drama film about the prison escapee and con artist.

In prison, Russell falls in love with fellow inmate Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor).

When Morris is released from prison, Russell escapes to be with his lover.

21. Marlon Brando in Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)

American actor Marlon Brando on the set of Waterfront, directed by Elia Kazan.
Marlon Brandon played a sexually repressed solider in 1967’s Reflections in a Golden Eye. (Getty)

Marlon Brando plays a married soldier on an army base in the 1940s whose sexuality is repressed.

Brando was the fourth choice for the role after the original actor Montgomery Clift died. Richard Burton and Lee Marvin turned the role down before it was offered to the Oscar-winning actor.

Elizabeth Taylor co-starred as Brando’s wife.

The film, based on the 1941 novel by Carson McCullers, was largely unsuccessful at the box office.

22. Whoopi Goldberg in Boys On the Side (1995)

Whoopi Goldberg with blond dreadlocks wearing a black dress
Whoopi Goldberg played lesbian musician Jane in 1995’s Boys On the Side. (Getty)

Whoopi Goldberg plays a lesbian lounge singer, Jane, on a road trip with Holly (Drew Barrymore) and Robin (Mary-Louise Parker) in this 1995 American comedy-drama directed by Herbert Ross.

Jane is in search of a new life after breaking up with her girlfriend and getting fired.

The threesome embarks on a cross-country road trip, forming a special friendship throughout the tragic but beautiful journey.

Jane falls in love with Robin, but she contracts HIV, and the three go their separate ways.

The film ends as Robin dies from AIDS-related complications, Holly starts a family, and Jane hits the road once more to seek a life of her own.

23. Hugh Grant in Maurice (1987)

Close-up of British actor Hugh Grant (in costume as Clive Durham) during the filming of 'Maurice' (directed by James Ivory), London, England, December 1986.
Hugh Grant played gay Cambridge student Clive Durham in 1987’s Maurice. (Mikki Ansin/Getty)

The 1987 British romantic drama is based on the novel by E. M. Forster and is a classic gay love story set in the early 20th-century.

Grant plays the wealthy Clive Durham who confesses that he is attracted to Maurice (James Wilby), but the feelings go unreciprocated until they begin to develop an intimate relationship with each other.

Durham stops them from becoming sexually involved as he fears that his status as an upper-class member would be diminished if their relationship was found out.

Grant has more recently starred as politician Jeremy Thorpe in the BBC drama A Very English Scandal. The mini-series follows the story of Thorpe’s trial for the alleged murder of his gay lover, Norman Scott.

24. Will Smith in Six Degrees of Separation (1993)

Will Smith smiling in a lilac shirt and black jacket
Will Smith played gay con artist Paul in 1993’s Six Degrees of Separation. (Getty)

In this 1993 comedy-drama, Smith plays Paul, a gay con-artist who works his way around the Upper East Side with his charming charisma.

Paul befriends some of the richest New Yorkers and in turn, he schemes to live off their money.

The film is based on the Pulitzer Prize-nominated play of the same name.

It was inspired by the real-life story of David Hampton, a con-man in 1980s New York who convinced the city’s elite that he was the son of a famous actor.

25. Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry (1999)

Hilary Swank accepts the Oscar for Best Actress at the 72nd Academy Awards
Hilary Swank won an Oscar for her portrayal of trans man Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty)

Swank plays a young trans man in this biographical film about Brandon Teena, a man who was brutally killed in a transphobic attack in 1993.

The film looks at the transphobia Teena had to deal with as people began to realise he was transgender.

He receives physical threats and gets into fights often leading him to move to Nebraska, where he meets his girlfriend Lana Tisdel (played by Chloë Sevigny) and befriends her brothers and friends.

Teena’s criminal past catches up with him and he is imprisoned and the group realise that he is transgender while going through documents.

Lana’s brothers become enraged, beating and gang-raping Teena before later killing him after he reports the incident to police.

26. Daniel Radcliffe in Kill Your Darlings (2013)

Daniel Radcliffe
Daniel Radcliffe played gay poet Allen Ginsburg in the 2013 biopic Kill Your Darlings. (Getty/Slaven Vlasic)

A long-time supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe played poet Allen Ginsburg in the biopic Kill Your Darlings.

He said that the gay kiss with co-star Dane DeHaan was ”sincere, passionate and romantic”, and joked that he would like to win an MTV award for it.

The star also spoke in an interview about filming gay sex scenes for the film, saying that when filming an intimate scene, the director gave him “step-by-step” instructions.

He also joked that “gay sex, especially for the first time is really painful”.

27. Jane Lynch

Jane Lynch in a white jacket and silver necklace
Jane Lynch is best known for her role as Glee’s Sue Sylvester. (Matt Winkelmeyer/WireImage)

It’s not just straight actors who have gone gay on-screen, gay actors have played against their off-screen sexuality also.

Well known for playing Sue Sylvester the sadistic coach on the hit show Glee, Lynch is a strong supporter of LGBTQ+ rights.

She played a lesbian on-screen 2000’s Best in Show, but has also played an array of straight characters.

From Paula in The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) to Julia Child’s sister Dorothy in Julie and Julia (2009), this out gay actor has her fair share of straight roles under her belt.

28. Luke Evans

Actor Luke Evans wearing a black top sits in front of a pink background
Welsh star Luke Evans has been out publicly since the start of his acting career. (Getty)

Out gay Welsh actor Luke Evans has made the transition to Hollywood leading man over the last decade and in 2017 he played the villainous Gaston in Disney’s live action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.

The star also played the boyfriend of bisexual actor Michelle Rodriguez’s character in the Fast and the Furious franchise.

He has also starred in hit films like The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) and The Raven (2012).

29. Rosie O’Donnell

Rosie O'Donnell in a black long-sleeved shirt and white puffer jacket
Rosie O’Donnell came out publicly in 2002. (Astrid Stawiarz/Getty)

The comedian, actor and presenter came out publicly in 2002 and has since been a vocal champion of LGBTQ+ equality and a vocal critic of former US president Donald Trump.

She married her wife Michelle Rounds in 2012 but has played straight on the silver screen a number of times.

O’Donnell played Doris in A League of Their Own (1992) and Betty Rubble in The Flintstones in Viva Las Vegas (2000).

30. Wanda Sykes

Wanda Sykes in a black collared dress
Wanda Sykes came out publicly after marrying her wife Alex Niedbalski in 2008. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage)

Comedian and actor Wanda Sykes came out publicly after marrying her wife Alex Niedbalski in 2008.

She has appeared in a number of big screen and TV roles, playing straight characters such as Biggie Shorty in Pootie Tang (2001).

Sykes also appeared alongside Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez in Monster-in-Law (2005) and has been a fierce advocate for LGBTQ+ rights through her comedy and campaigning.

31. Jim Parsons

The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons in a burgundy suit and white shirt
Jim Parsons played The Big bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper for 12 seasons. (Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

At one time rumoured to be the top paid out actor in Hollywood, Parsons played Sheldon Cooper on the The Big Bang Theory for 12 seasons from 2007-2019.

Parsons’ character was in a relationship with Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) for several seasons.

But in reality, Parsons is an out gay man and married his long-term partner Todd Spiewak in 2017.

32. Sarah Paulson

Sarah Paulson with cropped blonde hair wearing a gold dress with metallic sequin details
Sarah Paulson is currently in a relationship with actress Holland Taylor. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty)

The American Horror Story actor has played a number of straight characters in Ryan Murphy’s hit FX anthology series.

She also played a Christian who believes homosexuality is a sin in the short-lived 2006 TV drama Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, starring Friends’ Matthew Perry.

She dated actor Cherry Jones from 2004-09 and since 2015 has been in a relationship with actor Holland Taylor.

33. Michelle Rodriguez

Michelle Rodriguez in a white collared shirt with her hair tied up
Michelle Rodriguez came out publicly as bisexual in 2013. (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty)

The Fast and the Furious star played straight character Letty in a number of the franchise’s films.

She came out publicly as bisexual in October 2013 and has since revealed that she dated Cara Delevingne.

Rodriguez got into some hot water when she defended her role in 2016’s controversial action film The Assignment, which saw her play an assassin who undergoes a ‘forced sex change’ at the hands of a crazed doctor, played by Sigourney Weaver.

34. Neil Patrick Harris

Neil Patrick Harris in a baby pink tuxedo and black bow tie
Neil Patrick Harris came out publicly in 2006. (Getty)

Neil Patrick Harris out publicly as gay since 2006, but it hasn’t stopped him playing straight roles on TV and film.

The star, who has a twin son and daughter with husband David Burtka, famously played straight womaiser Barney Stitson in TV sitcom How I Met Your Mother.

Upon coming out publicly in 2006, Harris said: “I am happy to dispel any rumours or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love”.

35. Ricky Martin

Ricky Martin in a navy blue and black tuxedo
Ricky Martin has juggled acting with his singing career. (Getty)

The Puerto Rican singer and actor came out publicly as gay in 2010 following years of tabloid speculation around this sexuality.

He wrote on his website at the time: “These years in silence and reflection made me stronger and reminded me that acceptance has to come from within and that this kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn’t even know existed.”

Martin has played both gay and straight characters on TV. He played straight singer Miguez Morez on General Hospital from 1994-95 and later took on the role of Gianni Versace’s partner Antonio D’Amico in Ryan Murphy’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story in 2018.

36. Wentworth Miller

Prison Break star Wentworth Miller in a black shirt
Wentworth Miller is best known for his role in TV action series Prison Break. (Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)

The Prison Break star came out publicly in 2013 when he posted a letter to the GLAAD website declining a place at a Russian film festival over the country’s persecution of LGBTQ+ people.

He played Michael Scofield in Prison Break from 2005-2009 before returning for a revived fifth season in 2017.

Miller has since been a strong advocate for mental health awareness, LGBTQ+ rights and other important causes, revealing in 2021 that he had been diagnosed with autism as an adult.

37. David Hyde Pierce

Frasier star David Hyde Pierce in a black suit jacket and light blue/green shirt
David Hyde Pierce played psychiatrist Dr. Niles Crane on Frasier. (Bruce Glikas/Getty Images)

Pierce played psychiatrist Dr. Niles Crane on Frasier between 1993 and 2004.

By the end of the show, Crane had a son and was married to a woman, but Pierce came out publicly as gay in 2007.

He married his partner Brian Hargrove in 2008, at which point the pair had already been together for 25 years.

38. Cynthia Nixon

Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon at HBO Max's "And Just Like That" New York Premiere
Cynthia Nixon is best known for playing Miranda Hobbes on Sex and the City. (Getty/Dimitrios Kambouris)

The politician, activist and actor played Sex and the City‘s Miranda across six seasons, two movies and one spin-off.

Nixon was in a relationship with teacher Danny Mozes from 1988-2003, with whom she shares one child, who she revealed in 2018 is transgender.

She began dating education activist Christine Marinoni in 2004, with the couple marrying in 2012.

While Sex and the City’s Miranda was portrayed as straight during the series’ initial TV run and first two films, the show’s 2021 revival series And Just Like That… saw the character come to a new understanding regarding her sexuality after beginning a romance with non-binary YouTuber Che Diaz (Sara Ramirez).

39. Maria Bello

Mario Bello in a blue pinstripe suit jacket
Mario Bello released a 2015 book exploring the theme of sexuality. (Getty)

Coyote Ugly star Maria Bello came out in 2013, but it never stopped her playing straight roles on the big screen.

She has since made appearances in films like The 5th Wave (2016), The Late Blooner (2016) and Lights Out (2016).

Bello has a son with her ex-boyfriend Dan McDermott, but has been in relationships with women including Clare Munn and chef Dominique Crenn.

In 2015 she published a book on the topic of sexuality entitled Whatever… Love Is Love: Questioning the Labels We Give Ourselves.

40. Alan Cumming

Alan Cumming in black glasses with blonde hair
Alan Cumming is one of Hollywood’s most high-profile bisexual male actors. (Getty)

The bisexual X-Men star married his partner Grant Shaffer in 2007 and the pair renewed their vows in 2012.

Cumming has played a number of straight roles in his career, including Joe Therrian in The Anniversary Party (2001) and Sandy Frink in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997). But it hasn’t stopped him from being a powerful advocate for LGBT rights.

He has since starred in hit shows like The Good Wife and presented the US edition of hit reality competition The Traitors.

He was awarded an OBE honour by the Queen in 2009 but revealed in January 2023 that he had handed the award back due to the “toxicity” of the British Empire.

41. Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster in a blue pattern shirt
Jodie Foster publicly came out during the Golden Globes in 2013. (Jon Kopaloff/Getty)

After years of remaining publicly tight-lipped about her sexuality, Foster publicly came out in an acceptance speech at the Golden Globes in 2013.

She told the crowd: “I already did my coming out about 1,000 years ago back in the Stone Age, those very quaint days when a fragile young girl would open up to trusted friends and family and co-workers, and then gradually and proudly to everyone who knew her, to everyone she actually met.”

Throughout her career, Foster has played a number of straight roles, including Annabelle Bransford in Maverick (1994).

42. Zachary Quinto

Zachary Quinto in a black suit jacket
Zachary Quinto came out publicly in 2011. (Brendon Thorne/Getty for Paramount Pictures)

The out gay star of Star Trek played a straight character in the film franchise, with Spock getting together with Ahura (played by Zoe Saldana).

Quinto came out publicly in 2011 and has played a number of roles in his career.

The LGBTQ+ rights advocate also took to the small screen in multiple seasons of Ryan Murphy’s chilling anthology series American Horror Story.

43. Rock Hudson

Rock Hudson
Rock Hudson kept the fact that he was gay a secret throughout his life. (Getty)

Although he didn’t come out publicly in his lifetime, it became well known that Rock Hudson had relationships with men.

He died of AIDS-related complications in 1985, becoming the first major celebrity to die from complications relating to the disease.

Throughout his career, the heartthrob appeared in heterosexual leading roles opposite stars like Doris Day, such as Brad Allen in Pillow Talk (1959) as Jerry Webster in Lover Come Back (1961), and as George in Send Me No Flowers (1964).

44. Portia de Rossi

Portia de Rossi in a black and white shoulderless dress on a red carpet for Arrested Development
Portia de Rossi married Ellen DeGeneres in 2008. (Rich Fury/Getty)

The Australian-American actress’ most notable TV roles have been in Ally McBeal and as Lindsay Bluth Funke in Arrested Development, where her character was married to a man.

She married Ellen DeGeneres in 2008 and the couple are still going strong.

De Rossi has also made film appearances in motion pictures such as Scream 2 (1998) and Cursed (2005).

45. Russell Tovey

Russell Tovey in a black turtleneck jumper
Out gay actor Russell Tovey has played a variety of high profile straight roles. (Dominik Bindl/Getty)

The out gay British actor played a number of high-profile straight TV roles, including George Sands in Being Human and Steve in Him & Her.

He has been open about his initial struggle to be accepted by his family when he came out in his late teens.

While continuing to land straight roles, such as The Ray in The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, Tovey has also played gay characters in shows like Looking and Russell T Davies’ Years and Years.

46. Lily Tomlin

Lily Tomlin in a black jacket and gold necklace
Grace and Frankie star Lily Tomlin married her long-term partner Jane Wagner in 2013. (Getty)

The star of Grace and Frankie married her long-term partner Jane Wagner in 2013 after more than 40 years together. On the hit Netflix show, Tomlin played Frankie Bergstein, a woman who strikes up an unlikely friendship with Jane Fonda’s Grace Hanson after their husbands leave them for each other.

The Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award winner also played Vivian Jaffe in I Heart Huckabees (2004).

47. Matt Bomer

Matt Bomer in a black turtleneck and black jacket
Matt Bomer shares three children with his husband Simon Halls. (Bruce Glikas/Getty Images)

Actor Matt Bomer came out publicly in 2012 and shares three sons with his partner Simon Halls, who he married in 2011. Prior to coming out, he made film appearances in noughties films including Flightplan (2005) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006).

After opening up publicly about his sexuality, Bomer has continued to play both straight and gay roles, such as in Magic Mike: XXL (2015) and The Boys in the Band (2020). On TV, Bomer is known for playing Neal Caffrey in White Collar and starring alongside Lady Gaga in American Horror Story: Hotel.

Bomer also starred in Ryan Murphy’s 2014 TV adaptation of Larry Kramer’s classic 1985 AIDS stage play The Normal Heart.

48. Jonathan Groff

Jonathan Groff in a black t-shirt and navy blue jacket
Jonathan Groff came out publicly in 2009. (Bruce Glikas/WireImage/Getty)

Glee star Groff played Jesse St. James, the love interest of Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) on the hit musical series. After coming out publicly in 2009, Groff dated Zachary Quinto, before the pair broke up in 2013.

He has since appeared alongside Russell Tovey in HBO’s LGBTQ+ drama Looking, and voiced the roles of Kristoff and Sven in Disney’s Frozen (2013) and Frozen 2 (2019). His most recent big screen appearance came opposite fellow out gay actor Ben Aldridge in M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock at the Cabin (2020).

49. Denis O’Hare

Denis O'Hare in a blue jacket and shirt, and a wicker hat
Denis O’Hare is best known for his roles in American Horror Story. (Rich Fury/Getty Images)

The American Horror Story star married his long-term partner Hugo Redwood in 2011 and the couple has one son.

He appeared in seven seasons of the horror anthology series, and also played notorious homophobe John Briggs in Dustin Lack Black’s 2008 biopic Milk, about San Francisco City Councillor and LGBTQ+ activist Harvey Milk.