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20 great roles: Our favorite straight actors who have played gay characters

By Ryan Broderick, BuzzFeed
updated 8:26 AM EDT, Tue May 28, 2013
Michael Douglas stars as Liberace and Matt Damon stars as Scott Thorson in
Michael Douglas stars as Liberace and Matt Damon stars as Scott Thorson in "Behind the Candelabra."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • HBO's "Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace" is being lauded by critics
  • Michael Douglas and Matt Damon play the famed pianist and his lover
  • Many actors who are not gay in reality have portrayed gay characters, real and fictional
  • Tom Hanks, Charlize Theron and Hilary Swank won Oscars for playing gay or transgender characters

Editor's note: This post was created for your reading pleasure as a collaborative effort between the editorial staffs of BuzzFeed and CNN.

(BuzzFeed/CNN) -- Whether it's for television or a feature film, it's not easy to pull off a gay role as a straight actor. Many have tried, but it takes a great actor to make the role three dimensional and believable.

Steven Soderbergh's "Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace," which aired on HBO on Sunday, is being lauded by critics, especially for its touching, respectful, and well-rounded performances by Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.

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Here are 20 examples of actors who successfully pulled off playing a different sexuality on screen.

Tom Hanks
TriStar Pictures

1. Tom Hanks, "Philadelphia"

Robin Williams
United Artists

2. Robin Williams, "The Birdcage"

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Matt Damon
Paramount Pictures

3. Matt Damon, "The Talented Mr. Ripley"

Greg Kinnear
TriStar Pictures

4. Greg Kinnear, "As Good As It Gets"

Hillary Swank
Fos Searchlight Pictures

5. Hilary Swank, "Boys Don't Cry" (while Swank's character Brandon Teena was transgender, not gay, the role was iconic for many gays and lesbians)

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Charlize Theron
Newmarket Films

6. Charlize Theron, "Monster"

Christina Ricci
Newmarket Films

7. Christina Ricci, "Monster"

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Jake Gyllenhaal
Focus Features

8. Jake Gyllenhaal, "Brokeback Mountain"

Heath Ledger
Focus Features

9. Heath Ledger, "Brokeback Mountain"

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Philip Seymour Hoffman
Sony Pictures Classics

10. Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Capote"

Nelsan Ellis
HBO

11. Nelsan Ellis, "True Blood"

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Sean Penn
Focus Features

12. Sean Penn, "Milk"

James Franco
Focus Features

13. James Franco, "Milk"

Eric Stonestreet
ABC

14. Eric Stonestreet, "Modern Family"

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Ewan McGregor
Roadside Attractions

15. Ewan McGregor, "I Love You Phillip Morris"

Jim Carrey
Roadside Attractions

16. Jim Carrey, "I Love You Phillip Morris"

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Julianne Moore
Focus Features

17. Julianne Moore, "The Kids Are All Right"

Annette Bening
Focus Features

18. Annette Bening, "The Kids Are All Right"

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Matt Damon
HBO Films

19. Matt Damon, "Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace"

Michael Douglas
HBO Films

20. Michael Douglas, "Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace"

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