While 2012 may have been a high-mark for gays and lesbians on the political stage, Hollywood didn’t get the memo. In fact, the gay story this Oscar season is that the lack of stories. The Academy did not select a single gay character representation for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor or Best Supporting Actress – a rare occurrence in the recent past, occurring in 2008 and 2005.
Historically, playing gay, particularly in a compelling biopic, seems to be a great way to get into the field of nominees. Peter Finch (Sunday Bloody Sunday) was the first actor to be nominated for an Oscar for playing an openly gay character in 1971. It would take 14 years (1985) for a gay character to win an Oscar, when William Hurt won for Kiss of the Spider Woman. Eight years later, Tom Hanks made a memorable acceptance speech, after winning for Philadelphia. And it isn’t just men – Hilary Swank won Best Actress in 1999 for Boys Don’t Cry. Nicole Kidman won in 2002 for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf; One year later Charlize Theron won for Monster.
In the last ten years, in particular, there are 13 identifiable LGBT roles that have received Oscar nominations, and quite a few more who have picked up SAG and Golden Globe nods. Nominees range from the iconic (winners Sean Penn as Harvey Milk and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote) to the ordinary (Christopher Plummer in Beginners and Annette Bening in the Kids Are All Right). While we seem to celebrate the straight actor or actress taking on the daring challenge to play gay, consider that we have no openly gay actors or actresses who have won an Oscar, and few have even been nominated.
We should include a few caveats. Gay actor John Gielgud Won for Best Supporting Actor in 1981 for Arthur and he was nominated in 1964 as well. Despite a gay scandal in the British tabloids 1953, Gielgud’s sexual orientation was not well-known or publicized in Hollywood. Recent news-maker Jodie Foster has twice won and four times been nominated for an Oscar. But, until last week’s Golden Globes, Foster’s identification as a Lesbian was Hollywood’s worst kept secret. She, in fact, made this into a punch line in her speech. Sir Ian Murray McKellen has long been out and proud. But, despite multiple Laurence Olivier Awards, a Tony Award, a Golden Globe Award, five Emmy Award nominations, and two Academy Award nominations, Sir Ian has never taken home the Oscar.
With no gay characters or actors in this year’s major categories, we are left digging for other Oscar-worthy LGBT stories in 2012.
Lincoln, the darling of the Oscars, was written by openly gay writer / activist Tony Kushner. He very well may win for Best Adapted Screenplay. He would follow in the footsteps of a handful of winning gay writers, including Dustin Lance Black (Milk), Bill Condon (Gods & Monsters), and Alan Ball (American Beauty). Lincoln’s Sally Field, up for Best Supporting Actress, is a PFLAG mom and vocal supporter of gay rights. Her speech at the annual HRC dinner was a viral hit last year. And, Best Documentary nominee, How to Survive a Plague, tells the story of the AIDS epidemic, and would certainly be considered a gay-themed film.
But, the most interesting story for gays at this year’s Oscars may be the most under-appreciated: ParaNorman, a 3D stop-motion animated comedy horror film is up for Best Animated Feature Film. One of the lead characters is gay, a first for a major animated film, and certainly for a Best Animated Film nominee.
So, while there are no out human characters in contention, at least we have a cartoon to cheer for. In Hollywood, there will always be a sprinkle of rainbow come Oscar night.
Thank you to our friends at Pam’s House Blend for a few nuggets of wisdom from the Best Director Category. George Cukor’s homosexuality may have actually been the reason that he was dismissed directing Gone With the Wind. He won for My Fair Lady. Vincent Minelli won for Gigi. And Lee Daniels was the first African-American gay to be nominated for Best Director for Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire, in January 2010.