Michael Douglas stars as Liberace and Matt Damon stars as Scott Thorson in "Behind the Candelabra."
PHOTO: Courtesy HBO Films
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.

TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

1. Tom Hanks, “Philadelphia”

United Artists
United Artists

2. Robin Williams, “The Birdcage”

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Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

3. Matt Damon, “The Talented Mr. Ripley”

TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

4. Greg Kinnear, “As Good As It Gets”

Fos Searchlight Pictures
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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Newmarket Films
Newmarket Films

6. Charlize Theron, “Monster”

Newmarket Films
Newmarket Films

7. Christina Ricci, “Monster”

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Focus Features
Focus Features

8. Jake Gyllenhaal, “Brokeback Mountain”

Focus Features
Focus Features

9. Heath Ledger, “Brokeback Mountain”

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Sony Pictures Classics
Sony Pictures Classics

10. Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Capote”

HBO
HBO

11. Nelsan Ellis, “True Blood”

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Focus Features
Focus Features

12. Sean Penn, “Milk”

Focus Features
Focus Features

13. James Franco, “Milk”

ABC
ABC

14. Eric Stonestreet, “Modern Family”

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Roadside Attractions
Roadside Attractions

15. Ewan McGregor, “I Love You Phillip Morris”

Roadside Attractions
Roadside Attractions

16. Jim Carrey, “I Love You Phillip Morris”

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Focus Features
Focus Features

17. Julianne Moore, “The Kids Are All Right”

Focus Features
Focus Features

18. Annette Bening, “The Kids Are All Right”

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HBO Films
HBO Films

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

HBO Films
HBO Films

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

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