José Condessa, Pedro Almodóvar, Jodie Foster, and Andrew Scott Source: EDGE composite image

Breaking Down the Queer Stars and Roles Worthy of 2023 Awards Recognition

Frank J. Avella READ TIME: 13 MIN.

This year there are quite a number of queer artists that have really good chances at major awards mentions and Oscar attention. Of course, we can never get our hopes too high. That happened 25 years ago when Ian McKellen was poised to become the first openly gay actor to win an Oscar for his remarkable work in Bill Condon's "Gods and Monsters" (1998), but thanks to the now-infamous Harvey Weinstein voter bullying, Roberto Benigni took home the prize for his ridiculous performance in "Life is Beautiful."

We had to wait more than two decades for Ariana DeBose to become the first out queer acting winner for Steven Spielberg's "West Side Story."

We are still waiting on a victory for an out male actor and for any queer actor to win in a lead category. Adding to the egregious treatment of LGBTQ+ thesps, Brendan Fraser was named Best Actor last year for playing a self-hating gay man in the divisive film "The Whale." Some loved his performance. I found it to be over the top and pandering.

There is hope this year that ground could be broken in a number of categories. At the very least, a handful of queer artists are poised to receive nominations in January.

And, as usual, there are also a slew of straight-identifying actors in the running who did tremendous work portraying queer characters.

Let's begin with one of the most astonishing contenders of 2023...

Andrew Scott in "All of Us Strangers"

Outstanding Out Queer Artists

Andrew Scott in 'All of Us Strangers'

I first became aware of Andrew Scott watching the 2014 film "Pride." Scott stood out in a wonderful ensemble that included Dominic West and George MacKay. Of course, he vaulted to mega-fame portraying the hot priest in Phoebe Waller-Bridge's streaming sensation "Fleabag." He also made the most of his brief turn in Sam Mendes' sweeping "1917."

But no one could prepare us for his revelatory turn as the lonely and haunted gay screenwriter, Adam, in Andrew Haigh's sublime "All of Us Strangers." Scott has so many extraordinary moments in the film opposite budding love Paul Mescal, as well as Claire Foy and Jamie Bell, who play his long-dead parents. But it's in the quiet moments that Scott devastates with an honesty and vulnerability not usually seen onscreen. In a tight Best Actor year, he deserves to be including in the final five.

As the nominations for the various awards come, Scott was Golden Globe-nominated for Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, and cozied up to Pedro Pascal at the ceremony (hmmmm).

He did not win the Globe, and was snubbed this week by the Screen Actors Guild, which makes his path to even being Oscar-nominated more difficult. But on January 5 he was named Best Actor by the National Society of Film Critics, which does add some cred to his Oscar hopes.

Lily Gladstone in 'Killers of the Flower Moon'
Lily Gladstone in "Killers of the Flower Moon"

Lily Gladstone in 'Killers of the Flower Moon'

It took me two viewings of Martin Scorsese's three-and-one-half hour epic masterwork to truly appreciate Lily Gladstone's subtle, but powerful, performance as Osage Nation member Mollie Kyle. But in that second viewing, I was gobsmacked by the abundance of intelligence and emotion in her work. The final heartbreaking look that Molly gives her husband, Ernest (an incredible Leonardo DiCaprio), is priceless.

Gladstone might very well be the first queer actor to win an Oscar in a lead category. She has momentum, already winning both the National Board of Review and New York Film Critics Circle Awards for Best Actress, as well as an historic win at the Golden Globes, where her impassioned speech makes her the front-runner at the Oscars.

Jodie Foster in 'Nyad'
Jodie Foster in "Nyad"

Jodie Foster in 'Nyad'

Jodie Foster deservedly won two Oscars, almost back to back, for "The Accused" in 1988 and "The Silence of the Lambs" in 1991. She had a previous nomination, as a teen, for "Taxi Driver" (1976) and would receive one more for "Nell" (1994). Then her career took a bit of a nosedive, until her amazing work in "The Mauritanian," in 2021. She received a Golden Globe Award and should have been Oscar nominated.

This year, opposite the incredible Annette Bening, she plays real life Bonnie Stoll, the real life friend and coach to swimmer extraordinaire Diana Nyad. Foster proves, once again, that she's one of the most gifted actors working today. Her Bonnie is warm, vibrant, supportive, and exasperated. Foster captivates, and she is courting that much-merited fifth Academy Award nomination. She was also Golden Globe nominated.

Colman Domingo in 'Rustin'
Colman Domingo in "Rustin"

Colman Domingo in 'Rustin'

Yet another biopic (from Netflix, yet again), George C. Wolfe's "Rustin" is a keen portrait of the unsung gay, African-American leader forced to work behind the scenes because of his sexual orientation. The film soars because of Colman Domingo's embodiment of the queer hero. Domingo manages to transcend the sometimes biopic-y script and delve deep into this complex man.

The out actor has been working on stage and screen for over two decades, appearing in films like "The Butler," "Selma," "If Beale Street Could Talk," and "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." This year he also adds "Mister" in "The Color Purple" to his resume, doing his best to give that character some depth.

In that tight Best Actor race, attention must be paid to Domingo, who received his first Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor – Drama.

Andrew Haigh, director of 'All of Us Strangers'
Andrew Haigh attends the Los Angeles special screening of Searchlight Pictures' "All Of Us Strangers" at Vidiots Foundation - Eagle Theatre on December 09, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

Andrew Haigh, director of 'All of Us Strangers'

Andrew Haigh is a writer-director who consistently examines queer themes in his work, whether ambiguously ("Lean on Pete") or head-on ("Greek Pete," "Weekend," "Looking," and his latest and best film, "All of Us Strangers.")

"Strangers" is his most personal cinematic expression to date, loosely adapted from the Japanese novel "Strangers," by Taichi Yamada, and centering on a lonely, struggling screenwriter (Andrew Scott) who is haunted by ghosts and trying to navigate a new relationship while harboring past pain and regret. Haigh's camera lingers on his actors, allowing their expressions and movements to complete the enigmatic, but exquisite, story he is telling. This is filmmaking at its finest.

by Frank J. Avella

Frank J. Avella is a proud EDGE and Awards Daily contributor. He serves as the GALECA Industry Liaison and is a Member of the New York Film Critics Online. His award-winning short film, FIG JAM, has shown in Festivals worldwide ( Frank's screenplays have won numerous awards in 17 countries. Recently produced plays include LURED & VATICAL FALLS, both O'Neill semifinalists. He is currently working on a highly personal project, FROCI, about the queer Italian/Italian-American experience. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild.

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