The stars who went gay for pay 3
Films are an important voice for a lot of LGBT people as they offer vital representation in society. Actors do an important job of starring as our favourite characters in films.
However, very few LGBT roles are filled by openly LGBT actors. Actors who are open about their sexuality are struggling 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.
PinkNews has compiled all a list of all the Hollywood stars who have gone “gay for pay” on the big screen. We’ve also explored the gay actors who have made a name for themselves playing it straight.
1. Ewan McGregor in ‘I love You Phillip Morris’
Ewan McGregor plays Phillip Morris in the film. The pair shares a rollercoaster love story about prison breaks, forgiveness and ill health.
After they are both released, Russell is cause embezzling and the pair are sent back to prison. Morris is enraged by his actions and tells him that he does not want to see him again.
He later learnt that Russell is dying of AIDS-related complications, and he phoned him to tell him that he is still mad but still loves him.
Russell later “dies”, but this is just another hoax so that he could get out and see Morris once more.
2. Benedict Cumberbatch in ‘The Imitation Game’
Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing in the loose biographical film about the gay mathematician who deciphered the enigma code during the war.
The biographical film follows Turing from being bullied in school to finally finding his feet when he develops a friendship with Christopher Morcom, who introduces him to cryptography.
As Turing becomes an expert at the art, he also develops romantic feelings for Morcom but he 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 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.
3. James Wilby in ‘Maurice’
Maurice and Durham’s relationship grows closer as 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 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 Alec Scudder who he becomes intimate with.
The two flee England to live in a country where homosexuality is no longer criminalised.
4. Meryl Streep in ‘The Hours’
Streep stars in the early 2000’s film as a lesbian, Clarissa Vaughan. Vaughan is the title character of the novel which the film is based off.
The film focuses on the stories of three different generations of women but Vaughan’s story is about her caring for a close friend and former lover who has contracted HIV and is dying of AIDS-related complications.
It centres around her planning a party for him in his last days.
5. River Phoenix in ‘My Own Private Idaho’
Phoenix stars as gay hustler Mike Waters in My Own Private Idaho, which an adaptation of a series of Shakespeare novels.
His 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, 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’
Tom Hanks plays 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 won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role.
7. Antonio Banderas in ‘Philadelphia’
Banderas plays Miguel Álvarez, Hank’s partner, in the 1993 film, Philadelphia.
It was one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to acknowledge HIV and AIDS and the impact it had on homophobia and the LGBT community.
Since it’s release it has been celebrated for addressing the stigma and homophobia around HIV and AIDS.
8. James Franco in ‘Milk’
Milk is an American biographical film based on the life of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, the first openly 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.
9. Eddie Redmayne in ‘The Danish Girl’
Redmayne plays trans landscape artist Lili Elbe in this mid-1920s Copenhagen-based film.
It is based the Danish painter, who is one of the first known recipients of sex reassignment surgery.
The 2015 film follows Lili as she finds herself as a trans woman moving away from her well-known status as a male painter.
She begins to seek help from doctors and meets one which offers to help her with gender reassignment surgery.
The doctor warns that it is a very dangerous operation, and after undergoing it she dies of complications.
10. Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Brokeback Mountain’
Gyllenhaal plays Jack Twist, a rodeo cowboy who makes a pass at Ennis after a night of heavy drinking and the two develop a sexual and emotional relationship quickly.
Gyllenhaal plays Jack Twist, a rodeo cowboy who is hired to work herding sheep in Wyoming with Ennis Del Mar.
Twist comes onto Ennis after a night of heavy drinking and the pair become intimate.
Ennis insists that it has to be a one-time thing, but the two develop a sexual and emotional relationship.
They part ways and marry women, but after four years Twist visits Ennis and he tries to convince him to spend their life together.
11. Dame Judi Dench in ‘Notes on a Scandal’
Judie Dench plays history teacher Barbara Covett in the 2006 psychological thriller Notes on a Scandal.
It follows Covett, a spinster history teacher in London who takes comfort in writing in her diary.
She begins to have feelings for the new art teacher, Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett).
However, things turn sour after Covett realises that Hart is having a relationship with a student.
Rumours of the affair are leaked and both are fired, and Hart’s husband leaves her forcing her to move in with Covett.
Hart ends up imprisoned and the film ends with Dench’s character pursuing another woman.
12. Julianne Moore in ‘The Kids Are Alright’
Julianne Moore plays Jules, a lesbian woman married to Nic (Annette Bening).
The lesbian couple has a child together 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 their 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 has 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 affair.
13. Robin Williams in ‘The Birdcage’
Williams plays the openly 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’
Ledger plays Ennis, a ranch hand.
After they are reunited Ennis refuses to pursue a relationship together as he is haunted by a childhood memory of the torture and murder of two men believed to be homosexual.
Their marriages fall apart and while they still frequently see each other but begin to drift apart.
Ennis tries to reach out to Twist once more but is devastated to learn of his death, which he fears was a result of his homosexuality.
15. Philip Seymour Hoffman in ‘Capote’
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays gay author Truman Capote in the biographical film about his time writing the book ‘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’
Cher plays the lesbian character Dolly Pelliker in Silkwood, a film about the life of Karen Silkwood, a nuclear whistleblower and labour union activist.
Silkwood was a plutonium factory worker and is played by Meryl Streep. Cher plays Dolly, the lesbian friend of the main character.
The film marks a turning point in the LGBT icon’s career as one of the more “serious” films she did.
17. Sean Penn in ‘Milk’
Sean Penn plays the title character Harvey Milk in the film which documents his political career from his early failed political campaigns up until his assassination.
It also looks at his relationship with Scott Smith and Jack Lita, as well as his working relationship with Dan White, 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’
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 the lesbian after she kills a client that raped her and her attempt to get out of sex work.
However, her lack of qualifications and criminal history pushes her back into the work but she begins to rob and kill her clients as she suffers PTSD from the rape.
19. Christina Ricci in ‘Monster’
Christina Ricci plays Selby Wall, the girlfriend of Aileen Wuornos.
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 the death sentence being handed to Wuornos.
20. Jim Carrey in ‘I love You Phillip Morris’
Jim Carrey plays 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.
When Morris is released from prison, Russell escapes to be with his lover.
21. Marlon Brando in ‘Reflections in a Golden Eye’
Marlon Brando plays a married soldier on an Army base in the 1940’s who’s homosexuality 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’
Whoopi Goldberg plays a lesbian lounge singer, Jane, on a road trip with Holly (Drew Barrymore) and Robin (Mary-Louise Parker).
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.
They form a special friendship throughout the tragic but beautiful journey.
Jane falls in love with Robin, but she contracts HIV, and the three split apart.
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’
The 1987 British romantic drama is based on the novel by E. M. Forster.
It is a classic gay love fairy tale set in the early 20th-century.
Grant plays the wealthy Clive Durham who confesses that he is attracted to Maurice, 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’
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 1980’s New York who convinced elitists that he was the son of a famous actor.
25. Hilary Swank in ‘Boys Don’t Cry’
Swank plays a young trans man in a biographical film about Brandon Teena, who was brutally killed in a transphobic attack.
The film looks at the transphobia Teena had to deal with as people began to realise his gender identity.
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 his gender identity while going through documents.
The brother’s of Lana, who knew about Teena’s trans status, become enraged and they beat him and later kill him.
26. Daniel Radcliffe in ‘Kill Your Darlings’
A long-time supporter of LGBT rights, the Harry Potter star 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
It’s not just straight actors who have gone gay on-screen, gay actors have swapped their sexualities for roles also!
Well known for playing Sue Sylvester the sadistic coach on the hit show ‘Glee’, Lynch is a strong supporter of LGBT rights.
She has played a lesbian on-screen such as in ‘Best in Show’, but has also played an array of straight characters.
From Paula in the 40-Year-Old Virgin to Julia Child’s sister Dorothy in ‘Julie and Julia’, this out gay actor has her fair share of straight roles under her belt.
28. Luke Evans
Out gay Welsh actor Luke Evans rose to fame some years ago and most recently he played Gaston in the live action film of ‘Beauty and the Beast’.
The star also played bisexual actor Michelle Rodriguez’s boyfriend in the ‘Fast and the Furious’ franchise.
He has also starred in hit films like ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ and ‘The Raven’.
29. Rosie O’Donnell
The vocal President Trump critic and strong supporter of LGBT rights came out in 2002.
She also 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’ and Betty Rubble in ‘The Flintstones’.
30. Wanda Sykes
After marrying her wife in 2008, comedian and actor Sykes came out.
She has appeared in a number of roles playing straight characters such as Biggie Shorty in ‘Pootie Tang’.
Sykes also appeared alongside Jane Fonda in ‘Monster in Law’ and has been a fierce advocate for LGBT rights through her comedy and campaigning.
31. Jim Parsons
Rumoured to be the top paid out actor in Hollywood, Parsons played Sheldon Cooper on the ‘Big Bang Theory’ for a number of seasons.
Parsons’ character has been in a relationship with Amy Farrah Fowler for several seasons.
But in reality, Parsons married his husband Todd Spiewak for more than a decade. The couple tied the knot last year and shared their beautiful photos with the world.
32. Sarah Paulson
The American Horror Story actor has played a number of straight characters in the hit season.
She also played a Christian who believes homosexuality is a sin on ‘Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip’.
After splitting from Cherry Jones in 2009, Paulson has since confirmed she is with fellow actor Holland Taylor.
Despite saying some people had told her openly dating Taylor would damage her career, Paulson has gone from strength to strength and the couple couldn’t look happier.
33. Michelle Rodriguez
The ‘Fast and the Furious’ star played the character Letty in a number of the franchise’s films.
She came out as bisexual in October 2013 and has since revealed that she dated Cara Delevingne.
Rodriguez got into some hot water when she defended a ‘forced sex change’ film she starred in alongside Sigourney Weaver.
34. Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris has for more than a decade been open about being gay, but it hasn’t stopped him playing straight roles on TV and film.
The star, who is married to David Burtka and with who he has a son and a daughter, played straight character Barney Stitson on ‘How I Met Your Mother’.
“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,” he said, coming out in 2006.
35. Ricky Martin
The out gay singer and actor came out in 2010.
He wrote on his website: “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.”
As well as living openly, Martin has played gay characters on TV. He played Miguez Morez on ‘General Hospital’.
36. Wentworth Miller
The ‘Prison Break’ star came out 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 LGBT people.
He played Michael Scofield in the hit show and returned for a special after the show was done.
Miller has since been a strong advocate for mental health awareness, LGBT rights and other important causes.
37. David Hyde Pierce
Pierce played 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 Brian Hargrove in 2008 after they were together for more than two decades.
38. Cynthia Nixon
The activist and ‘Sex and the City’ star played Miranda on the hit series.
Despite some ups and downs, Miranda and Steve Hobbs had a son Brady and were married by the time the films came around.
She came out as gay in recent years, first saying she identified as bisexual and later saying she misspoke. Nixon has since been a strong advocate of LGBT rights and has spoken at anti-Trump rallies in New York City.
39. Maria Bello
Maria Bello came out in 2013, but it never stopped her playing straight roles on the big screen.
She starred as Edie Stall in ‘A History of Violence’.
Bello has a son with her ex-boyfriend but has spoken about having relationships with both men and women.
40. Ellen Page
Page rose to fame after her breakthrough role in the hit film ‘Juno’.
Playing the title character, Page’s character dealt with a teen pregnancy and finding her way through the associated issues.
But Page came out in February 2014 in a powerful speech at the Human Rights Campaign. She has since spoken about playing a lesbian character in ‘Freeheld’, saying it helped her to come out.
She has since said she feels pigeonholed in queer roles since coming out, accusing Hollywood of double standards.
41. Alan Cumming
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’. But it hasn’t stopped him from being a powerful advocate for LGBT rights.
He was awarded an OBE honour by the Queen in 2009 and has since starred in hit shows like ‘The Good Wife’.
42. Jodie Foster
Foster publicly came out in an acceptance speech for 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.”
But throughout her career, Foster has played a number of straight roles including Annabelle Bransford in ‘Maverick’.
43. Zachary Quinto
The out gay star of ‘Star Trek’ played a straight character in the film franchise, with Spock getting together with Ahura.
He came out publicly in 2011 and has played a number of roles in his career.
The LGBT rights advocate also took to the small screen to play Dr Oliver Thredson in ‘American Horror Story’.
44. Rock Hudson
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 AIDS.
But throughout his career, the heartthrob appeared opposite stars like Doris Day as Brad Allen in ‘Pillowtalk’ as Jerry Webster in ‘Lover Come Back’, and as George in ‘Send Me No Flowers’.
45. Portia de Rossi
The wife of Ellen DeGeneres has appeared in various notable roles including in Ally McBeal, Cursed and Stigmata.
The couple married in 2008 and are still going strong.
She notably played the character Lindsay Bluth Funke on ‘Arrested Development’, and her character was promiscuous but married to a man.
46. Russell Tovey
The British star has played a number of roles in his career including quite a few straight ones.
He played George Sands on ‘Being Human’, and his character was straight and similarly as Steve in ‘Him and Her’.
Tovey also appeared in ‘The History Boys’, ‘Little Dorrit’, and as a gay character in ‘Looking’.
He has opened up about struggling to be accepted by his family since he came out when he was in his late teens.
47. Lily Tomlin
The star of ‘Grace and Frankie’ married her long-term partner Jane Wagner in 2013.
On the hit Netflix show, she played Frankie Bergstein who strikes up an unlikely best-friendship after her husband leaves her for his law partner.
She also played Vivian Jaffe in ‘I Heart Huckabees’.
48. Matt Bomer
Since coming out as gay in 2012, Bomer has had three sons with his partner Simon Halls.
He is well known for playing Neal Caffrey in ‘White Collar’, and alongside Lady Gaga in ‘American Horror Story: Hotel’.
Bomer also starred in the TV drama around the AIDS crisis ‘The Normal Heart’.
49. Jonathan Groff
The ‘Glee’ star Groff played Jesse St. James on the hit series, who dated Rachel Berry.
After coming out in 2009, Groff briefly dated Zachary Quinto.
He has since appeared alongside Russell Tovey in ‘Looking’, and in a range of other roles.
50. Denis O’Hare
The ‘American Horror Story’ star is married to his long-term partner Hugo Redwood and the couple has one son.
He played Larry Harvey in the hit series but also played a number of other roles, some gay or bi.
O’Hare also played notorious homophobe John Briggs in the 2008 biopic ‘Milk’, about San Francisco City Councillor Harvey Milk.
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