Movies

Published: Thursday February 27, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday February 27, 2014 MYT 7:35:06 AM

The power of opposites

Actors portraying gender-bender roles have created quite a stir in past Oscars.

AFTER enjoying wins at both the recent Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild, Jared Leto is most likely to take home this year’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as a HIV-positive transgender in Dallas Buyers Club.

Regardless of whether Leto wins or loses, he joins a slew of actors who have received critical acclaims for their gender-bender roles. Here’s a look at a few:

Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry)

Hilary Swank played a man? No way! Indeed, it’s hard to imagine this graceful, gorgeous brunette as a brooding, rough-and-tough man, but Swank played the young chap, Brandon Teena, in the 1999 indie film, Boys Don’t Cry.

Based on a true story, Brandon is a female-to-male transgender who moves to Nebraska in search of a new life and a new identity.

To prepare for the role, Swank reportedly walked and talked like a man for a month, even wrapping her chest with bandages and putting a sock on her groin to get into character. All that hard work paid off when she won her first Best Actress Oscar for the role.

Felicity Huffman (Transamerica)

Felicity Huffman secured a nomination for the 2005 Best Actress Oscar but didn’t take home the title that night. Even so, Huffman’s portrayal of Sabrina “Bree” Osbourne, a male-to-female transgender in Transamerica is not negligible.

Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman proves she is more than just a TV actress with her portrayal as male-to-female transgender Bree in Transamerica.
Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman proves she is more than just a TV actress with her portrayal as male-to-female transgender Bree in Transamerica.

Just one week before her scheduled vaginoplasty, Bree is surprised to discover that she has a son and must come to terms with her past before going ahead with the operation.

Widely-recognised for her role as Lynette Scavo in Desperate Housewives, Huffman’s Oscar nomination proved she was not just a TV actress who could portray a nosy neighbour on Wisteria Lane, but a serious actor devoted to her craft.

Julie Andrews (Victor Victoria)

Yes, even the sweet, sing-songy Julie Andrews has played a man. Well, she is no less sing-songy in this 1982 comedy musical, Victor Victoria. Andrews plays out-of-job soprano singer Victoria Grant who, in order to keep food on the table, is forced to pretend to be a man who then gets a job singing as a female impersonator.

(Left) Julie Andrews  pretending to be a man pretending to be a female singer (it's complicated) in Victor Victoria.

Yes, it’s confusing. Let’s try this again. Woman acts like man who acts like woman. (That’s some serious gender-bending right there.) Andrews eventually lost the Best Actress Oscar to Meryl Streep for the latter’s performance in Sophie’s Choice but was no doubt a strong contender. (C’mon, it’s Meryl Streep after all.)

Cate Blanchett (I’m Not There)

If you look hard enough, like really hard, Cate Blanchett does kind of look like Bob Dylan. Nah, not in a million years. But in I’m Not There, an unconventional biopic where six actors portray different facets of Dylan’s life, Blanchett’s portrayal as male folk singer Jude Quinn bears a striking (and eerie) resemblance to the musician.

Cate Blanchett - in I'm Not There - earned herself an Oscar nomination.
Cate Blanchett – in I’m Not There – earned herself an Oscar nomination.

Here, the usually regal Blanchett (remember her role as Queen Elizabeth I?) dons a wig and a leather jacket with a cigarette hanging from her lips. And the Academy agreed, too, doling out a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination to Blanchett, the only actor from the film to do so, beating out even the late Heath Ledger, Richard Gere and Christian Bale who all played Bob Dylan in I’m Not There.

Dustin Hoffman (Tootsie)

If the idea of Dustin Hoffman as a woman scared you, well, it scared him, too. In a video that went viral last year, the actor shared in an interview that he had to take on the role after experiencing an epiphany.

“If I met myself at a party, I would never talk to that character because she doesn’t fulfill physically the demands that we’re brought up to think women have to have in order to ask them out,” Hoffman said about himself after getting styled and made-up as a woman.

For Dustin Hoffman, Tootsie was not a comedy flick.

“There are too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.”

Tootsie, a comedy flick, tells the tale of a difficult actor who drove all his job offers away and ends up having to pretend to be a woman to get his career up and running again.

Hoffman scored a Best Actor Oscar nomination for the role and ended the interview, saying, “That [Tootsie] was never a comedy for me.”


Related story:
Grace and humanity

Tags / Keywords: Entertainment, Hilary Swank, Jared Leto, Felicity Huffman, Julie Andrews, Cate Blanchett, Dustin Hoffman, gender bender, Oscars 2014

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