The 2023 Academy Awards are just around the corner, and this year’s race for Best Actor realistically seems like a nail-biting three-way tie.
Austin Butler, Colin Farrell, and Brendan Fraser are all seemingly in the running for the prize, as they’ve been snagging similar trophies throughout awards season. Fellow nominees Bill Nighy and Paul Mescal are not predicted as likely winners, however, nothing is certain until that name is called.
Fraser’s nomination for his performance in The Whale as an obese gay man is nothing short of astounding. Though Fraser does not identify as gay, his performance is convincing and a marvel to watch. If he wins, it will mark one more instance when a gay character was rewarded, but not a gay actor.
The ongoing debate in Hollywood about straight men playing gay or queer roles mostly centers around the lack of opportunities or awards gifted to out gay actors. Nowhere is this seemingly more apparent than in the Best Actor category. As of the 2023 Academy Awards, it has been 25 years since an openly gay man has been nominated for Best Actor.
Ian McKellen was up for the honor back in 1998 for his work in Gods & Monsters. That year, he lost to Roberto Benigni, whose performance in Life Is Beautiful was certainly worthy of a win.
The following year, Kevin Spacey would earn the same trophy for American Beauty.
At the time, he was not out, and speculation about his sexuality swirled for decades. Spacey only came out of the closet after being accused of sexual assault, and the LGBTQ community vigorously shunned him and claimed his timing around coming out was inexcusable, as were his crimes.
McKellen is also the most recent openly gay man to be nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category. The two-time nominee earned a second chance to win in 2001 for portraying the wizard Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. That year, Jim Broadbent took home the trophy for his work in the film Iris.
The discussion regarding whether straight actors should really be taking on roles of gay or queer men or even trans characters in this moment in time is an important one, and it deserves to be hashed out. Everyone has their own opinions on the matter, but one thing remains certain — out gay men usually don’t receive the same attention as their straight colleagues in the acting categories at the Academy Awards.
This may be due to a number of factors, including typecasting and a lack of chances to go for Oscar bait roles. As this conversation continues, it’s worth noting the simple facts, including that it has now been a quarter century since any out star earned a Best Actor Academy Award nomination, and that is really a shame.
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