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The stars who went gay for pay

PinkNews Staff Writer January 29, 2019

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 as Phillip Morris in "I Love You Phillip Morris"
Ewan McGregor as Phillip Morris in “I Love You Phillip Morris” (Photo by LD Entertainment / Roadside Attractions)

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’

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in "The Imitation Game"
Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in “The Imitation Game” (Photo by The Weinstein Company)

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’

Meryl Streep as Clarissa Vaughan in "The Hours"
Meryl Streep as Clarissa Vaughan in “The Hours” (Photo by Paramount Pictures)

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’

River Phoenix as Mike Waters in "My Own Private Idaho"
River Phoenix as Mike Waters in “My Own Private Idaho” (Photo by Fine Line Features)

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 as Andrew Beckett in "Philadelphia"
Tom Hanks as Andrew Beckett in “Philadelphia” (Photo by Clinica Estetico)

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’

Antonio Banderas as Miguel Álvarez in "Philadelphia"
Antonio Banderas as Miguel Álvarez in “Philadelphia” (Photo by Clinica Estetico)

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’

James Franco plays Scott Smith in "Milk"
James Franco plays Scott Smith in “Milk” (Photo by Focus Features)

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’

Eddie Redmayne as Einar Wegener in "The Danish Girl (Photo by Focus Features and Universal Pictures)
Eddie Redmayne as Einar Wegener in “The Danish Girl (Photo by Focus Features and Universal Pictures)

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’

Heath Ledger (Ennis Del Mar) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Jack Twist) in "Brokeback Mountain"
Jake Gyllenhaal as Jack Twist in “Brokeback Mountain” (Photo by River Road Entertainment)

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.

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