Is Sam Smith The First Openly Gay Man To Win An Oscar? His Acceptance Speech's Claim Has Viewers Wondering
In his acceptance speech for the Oscar for Best Original Song, Sam Smith called attention to Ian McKellen's claim that no openly gay man had ever won an Oscar for Best Actor. "I stand here tonight as a proud gay man and I hope we can all stand together as equals one day," he said. So: Is is true? Has no openly gay man ever won an Oscar until Sam Smith, during the Academy's 88th ceremony?
Yes, and no. Elton John won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1995, for The Lion King's "Can You Feel The Love Tonight." Earlier this year, however, Ian McKellen did draw attention to the fact that no openly gay man had ever won the Oscars for best actor, which is seemingly where Smith's reference comes from. “No openly gay man has ever won the Oscar; I wonder if that is prejudice or chance," he said in January in reference to the outrage sparked by Oscar nominees' lack of diversity, according to The Guardian.
He pointed out that a handful of straight male actors, including Sean Penn and Tom Hanks, have won best actor Oscars for their portrayal of gay men. "What about giving me one for playing a straight man?" McKellen said during the same panel. He strongly suggested that the reason that no openly gay man has ever won the Academy Award for Best Actor was because of their sexual orientation.
McKellen was nominated for an Oscar twice, but lost both times.
HitFix notes that although several openly gay individuals have been awarded the Best Original Song Oscar, including Elton John, Melissa Etheridge, and Stephen Sondheim, it is true that no lead actor awards have ever gone to a man who is openly gay. However, Angelina Jolie won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Girl, Interrupted in 1999, and at the time had openly spoken out about being bisexual.
Update: Backstage at the Oscars, Sam Smith was informed that his speech was incorrect. And, of course, his reaction was utterly perfect.