Clean sweep for queer roles at the Oscars? The 4 acting winners could make history, and most of them get to live!

Queer representation has come a long way in Hollywood, and we can see that at this year’s Oscars, where there’s the possibility of an unprecedented sweep. There are LGBT characters in all four acting categories, and there’s a decent chance they’ll could actually win.

Eleven actors have won Oscars for queer roles: William Hurt (Best Actor for “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” 1985), Tom Hanks (Best Actor for “Philadelphia,” 1993), Hilary Swank (Best Actress for “Boys Don’t Cry,” 1999), Nicole Kidman (Best Actress for “The Hours,” 2002), Charlize Theron (Best Actress for “Monster,” 2003), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Best Actor for “Capote,” 2005), Sean Penn (Best Actor for “Milk,” 2008), Penelope Cruz (Best Supporting Actress for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” 2008), Natalie Portman (Best Actress for “Black Swan,” 2010), Christopher Plummer (Best Supporting Actor for “Beginners,” 2011) and Jared Leto (Best Supporting Actor for “Dallas Buyers Club,” 2013). It’s possible you could include Matthew McConaughey to that list for his Best Actor-winning role in “Dallas Buyers Club” as Ron Woodroof, who may have been bisexual, but he wasn’t depicted that way in the film.

This year’s best chances for winning queer roles are in the male categories. Following his victories at the Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA Awards, Rami Malek is the front-runner to win Best Actor for playing queer rock star Freddie Mercury in the music biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He gets leading odds of 16/5 with support from 27 out of 29 Expert journalists we’ve polled thus far.

Mahershala Ali plays another queer musician, pianist Don Shirley, in the buddy movie “Green Book,” and he’s tipped to win Best Supporting Actor after dominating the awards season with victories at the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, Critics’ Choice Awards and BAFTAs. We’re giving him leading odds of 31/10 with support from 24 out of 29 Experts. But even if Ali loses, the next in line in our predictions is Richard E. Grant, who also plays a gay character in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

The female categories look tougher. Glenn Close is favored to win Best Actress for “The Wife,” but Olivia Colman beat her at the BAFTAs for her role in “The Favourite” as Queen Anne, who is torn between two women in her court. Now Colman ranks second in our Oscar predictions with 39/10 odds. One of those women vying for her is played by Rachel Weisz, who won Best Supporting Actress at the BAFTAs and could be poised to upset the Oscar front-runner Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”).

What’s just as historic is that most of the queer characters who could win actually get to live. Queer cinema history is beset with tragedy — you can win for playing gay, but you usually have to die to do it. In fact, only 2 of the 11 past winners for LGBT roles got to live to tell the tale. Hoffman played the title character in “Capote,” but the real-life writer didn’t die until decades after the film is set. And Cruz, who becomes involved in a polyamorous romance with both Javier Bardem and Scarlett Johansson in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” survives the passionate relationship.

Freddie Mercury did die of AIDS in 1991, but the film ends several years earlier with Queen‘s triumphant performance at the Live Aid charity concert. The “Favourite” women also live throughout their films, though Queen Anne’s health is seen to decline as the film progresses. And Don Shirley lived for long after the period the film covers: he died in 2013 at age 86.

So it’s not all doom and gloom for this year’s potential Oscar winners in LGBT roles, though it must be noted that none of the actors playing those roles this year — also including Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) and Emma Stone (“The Favourite”) — are openly LGBT themselves. Is that what they mean by straight-acting?

Be sure to check out how our experts rank this year’s Oscar contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own Oscar predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until winners are announced on February 24.

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