By Advocate Contributors
Originally published on Advocate.com February 25 2011 4:00 PM ET
Many an actor has been showered with awards for playing gay. But just as many have fallen on their faces. As awards season rolls around, we took a look back at some of the worst performances by actors playing gay (or pretending to be gay) on film. From J.Lo in Gigli to Al Pacino in Cruising, read the list — then let us know who you think we missed in the comments below.
Check back Saturday for The Advocate's list of great gay performances snubbed by Oscar.
Jennifer Lopez: Gigli — 2003
A lesbian hit woman who goes straight for Ben Affleck, it’s not that Jennifer Lopez’s acting is so much worse than the other bad performances in Gigli. It’s that the movie as a whole is so colossally bad (and the whole lesbian-gone-straight subplot so offensive), it drags everyone down with it. J.Lo won the worst actress award at the 2003 Razzies, and she and Affleck won Worst Screen Couple.
Richard Burton, Rex Harrison: Staircase - 1969
No negative stereotype is left unexplored in this atrocity, which reunites those two master thespians from 1963’s epically awful Cleopatra for this even worse disaster about two aging, bickering lovers who run a hair salon in Brixton, England. Burton lisps and minces throughout the film with a huge bandage wrapped around his head like a turban, while Harrison, clad in Carnaby Street’s tightest trousers, nervously frets over his upcoming court appearance for having been busted in public while in drag. The poster’s tagline “Whoops!” got it right.
Rupert Everett: The Next Best Thing — 2000
For all of his lamenting that coming out of the closet killed his chances of ever being a leading man, Rupert Everett might just want to look at his work opposite Madonna (who is no better) in this 2000 flop from director John Schlessinger. We almost gave Rupert a pass considering word is he stepped in at the last minute to save the film because Schlessinger was so ill, but the story of a woman who has a baby with her gay best friend, then sues him for custody when he doesn’t like her fiancé, is so grating, it's hard to care about either character.
Alexis Smith: Once is Not Enough — 1975
1940s starlet Smith is not only gorgeous, she’s a hoot as the world’s richest closeted lesbian torn between a penniless movie director (Kirk Douglas) and an enigmatic Garbo-esque star (Melina Mercouri)—only this isn’t a comedy. This glossy but ultimately lethargic film was adapted from the torrid bestseller by Valley of the Dolls author Jacqueline Susann, who allegedly based the character Smith plays on one-time wife of Cary Grant, heiress Barbara Hutton.
Adam Sandler: I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry — 2007
Adam Sandler doesn’t play gay in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry — he plays a guy who pretends to be gay to get domestic partner benefits, which is even more offensive. The film has its moments, but Sandler is grating as usual (much more so than Kevin James), and the whole concept that these straight guys have a sort of epiphany about gay rights gets lost in the shuffle.
Al Pacino: Cruising — 1980
As a straight cop who dons a gold chain and tight black tank top as an undercover disguise while investigating a gay murder in New York’s S/M scene, Pacino’s performance is practically legendary—but for the wrong reasons. Though this isn’t Pacino’s worst performance, it’s definitely his most disconnected. But who can blame him, as gay activists frequently disrupted the film while it was shooting. He fared much better the next time he played a gay character — Roy Cohn in 2004’s Angels in America.
Christina Ricci: Monster — 2003
Charlize Theron’s career-defining performance as rape victim turned killer Aileen Wuornos was made to look even better opposite Ricci’s whiny, unbalanced work as her runaway girlfriend Shelby. Ricci has turned in some fine performances in her career (most notably in The Opposite of Sex), but this is not one of them, and she almost single-handedly drags the entire film down with her.
Michael Greer: The Gay Deceivers — 1969
The year of the Stonewall riots was obviously a bad one for gay characters in the movies, as this exploitative curiosity proves. Two straight draft dodgers pretend to be a couple and move into a gay housing complex managed by Malcolm (Michael Greer, center), the swishiest homosexual in San Francisco. Hilarity doesn’t ensue. Perhaps the blame doesn’t rest entirely with Greer, who was gay, and is reported to have lobbied the director to tone down the negative characteristic of his flamboyant character, such as practically having a nervous breakdown when someone steps in his flowerbed.
Barbara Stanwyck: Walk on the Wild Side — 1962
A script this lousy could defeat even the usually dependable Stanwyck. As a neurotic New Orleans madam obsessed with her star hooker (Capucine), Stanwyck launches into overblown Bette Davis-mode, devouring the scenery of her Doll House bordello in an effort to make this lurid melodrama work.
Boat Trip: 2002
Some movies are just so abysmally bad, everything about them is worth mentioning. Boat Trip — one of many terrible films in Cuba Gooding Jr.’s post Jerry Maguire career — follows two down-and-out friends who accidentally find themselves on a gay cruise. Every character on the boat is a stale, hypersexualized stereotype, and the antigay gags fly fast and furious. When originally reviewed in The Advocate, we wrote that it was “too terrible to protest.” Enough said.