Michael Douglas stars as Liberace and Matt Damon stars as Scott Thorson in "Behind the Candelabra."

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

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

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

1. Tom Hanks, “Philadelphia”

United Artists

2. Robin Williams, “The Birdcage”

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Paramount Pictures

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

TriStar Pictures

4. Greg Kinnear, “As Good As It Gets”

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

6. Charlize Theron, “Monster”

Newmarket Films

7. Christina Ricci, “Monster”

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Focus Features

8. Jake Gyllenhaal, “Brokeback Mountain”

Focus Features

9. Heath Ledger, “Brokeback Mountain”

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Sony Pictures Classics

10. Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Capote”


11. Nelsan Ellis, “True Blood”

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Focus Features

12. Sean Penn, “Milk”

Focus Features

13. James Franco, “Milk”


14. Eric Stonestreet, “Modern Family”

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Roadside Attractions

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

Roadside Attractions

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

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Focus Features

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

Focus Features

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

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HBO Films

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

HBO Films

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

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