Top 10 Actors Who Played Gender-Bending Roles

Acting is indeed a challenging craft. Actors are pushed to their limits as they tackle various high-profile roles. Having a foul language, gratuitous violence, and nudity are just some of the things that they do for a role – for the sake of art or commerce, or maybe both.

What’s more interesting is the fact that many actors also had to play the opposite sex in some of their roles either for film or for television. This list actually aims to showcase 10 actors who played the opposite sex in certain film roles with flying colors. Your favorite celebrity might actually be in the list!

10. Linda Hunt – “The Year of Living Dangerously” (1982)

Linda Hunt

Barely 5 feet tall, Hunt portrayed the Chinese-Australian photographer Billy Kwan and won a Supporting Actress Academy Award for this role. She completely lost her old self and transformed into a courageous journalist out to cover the darkest days of the Khmer Rouge in Southeast Asia., Hunt became the first actor to ever win an Oscar for a role playing the opposite sex.

9. Robin Williams – “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993)

Robin Williams

Williams’ memorable role as a divorced husband who would do anything to be with his children was a landmark of the actor’s film career. He wore make-up and had full prosthetics on as he essayed the role of a grandmother/nanny to 3 children. He also wore fake hair, fake boobs, and had his body remodeled to resemble an old woman.

8. Hilary Swank – “Boys Don’t Cry” (1999)

Hilary Swank

Swank was absolutely excellent playing the role of cross-dressing lesbian Tina Brandon and her public counterpart Brandon Teena in this tragic drama. Swank uglified herself for the role and was rewarded magnificently with a slew of acting awards – including her first ever Best Actress Academy Award.

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7. Cate Blanchett – “I’m Not There” (2007)

Cate Blanchett

Blanchett played legendary rock recording artist Bob Dylan in this little seen ensemble art film. Blanchett, known for playing intense female roles in her previous films, completely reinvented herself for the role of Bob Dylan. She almost won as Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her flawless portrayal in this film.

6. John Travolta – “Hairspray” (2007)

John Travolta

Acting and musical legend John Travolta essayed the role of Edna Turnblad in the musical remake of Hairspray. Playing the role with so much bravura and energy, Travolta managed to win critical acclaim by veering away from his previous male-centric/Romeo roles. It was his performance which made the musical remake all the more watchable and memorable.

5. Glenn Close – “Albert Knobs” (2011)

Glenn Close

Character actress Glenn Close already has a colorful collection of film roles when she decided to up the ante some more and play British thespian Albert Knobs in this film. Her performance was nothing short of spectacular and she almost took home the Academy Award for Best Actress for this role in 2011.

4. Felicity Huffman – “Transamerica” (2005)

Felicity Huffman

Huffman was having the time of her life playing one of the lead actresses in ABC’s defunct comedy Desperate Housewives when she decided to play the lead role in this independent film. Playing a transgender who is out to rekindle an alienated relationship with her son, many people took notice of Huffman’s low key but consistent and affecting performance in this film.

3. Dustin Hoffman – “Tootsie” (1982)

Dustin Hoffman

Hoffman was actually the original Mrs. Doubtfire when he played the role of a woman just to be with the love of his life in this critically-praised and box-office hit romantic comedy. Hoffman, in interviews, frequently states that her role in this film remains to be one of the most special and memorable for this multi-awarded actor.

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2. Hugo Weaving – “Cloud Atlas” (2012)

Hugo Weaving

Weaving’s gender-bending role in this film was so convincing that a debate arose in the Hollywood Foreign Press whether or not he should be nominated for Best Supporting Actor or Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal as Nurse Oakes in this film.

1. Charlie Chaplin – “A Busy Day” (1914)

Charlie Chaplin

He remains to be one of the founders of American Cinema. He was also the first actor to play a role of the opposite sex when he decided to play the role of a bored housewife in this iconic 1914 silent film.

    1. Film Watcher February 10, 2017

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