Yesterday, I saw a lot of people calling for Jamie Foxx's Oscar to be revoked following the announcement that he and Martin Lawrence are confirmed for "Sheneneh and Wanda," a comedy in which the duo will play female bank robbers. Both roles are based on earlier cross-dressed characters from the actors' TV days (Lawrence's Sheneneh is from "Martin" and Foxx's Wanda is from "In Living Color"). Foxx, who won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2004 for "Ray" (he was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor that same year for "Collateral), returning to this drag shtick seems like a huge step backward to a lot of people.
"Seems" is the key word here, though, because it doesn't have to be a regression. Plenty of Oscar-caliber actors have cross-dressed before and since being nominated and/or winning an Academy Award, and plenty of performers have won for dressing like the opposite sex. I've selected a few standouts of the bunch below. Click the image at the top of the post to be whisked off to our Cross-Dressing Oscar Winners flipbook gallery.
On his fourth nomination for Best Actor, Dustin Hoffman won the Oscar for playing a single father in "Kramer vs. Kramer." His very next film? "Tootsie," in which he's a struggling actor who masquerades as an actress to land a role on a soap opera. His new persona ultimately, and ironically, inspires a minor feminist movement. Not only was the Academy not disappointed with Hoffman's choice of a "Kramer" follow-up, they nominated him again for the "Tootsie" role.
A Best Supporting Actress winner for "The Aviator" three years prior, Cate Blanchett dressed in masculine clothing to play one of six characters based on Bob Dylan for the 2007 experimental biopic "I'm Not There." Basically she's playing a man rather than a cross-dresser, which aligned her with Oscar-winner Linda Hunt, who won in 1984 for playing the opposite sex in "The Year of Living Dangerously." Similarly, for "Sheneneh and Wanda," Foxx and Lawrence will be portraying women instead of men dressed as women.
Considering that William Shakespeare is associated with cross-dressing roles as much as he is with top-notch acting, it's no surprise that Oscar-caliber actresses have gone drag for the Bard. Oscar-winner-to-be Peggy Ashcroft did it as Viola in a 1939 BBC production of "Twelfth Night," while Helen Hunt directly followed her Best Actress win to play the same cross-dressing role in a 1998 stage production, which was aired on PBS. The same year as Hunt's portrayal of Viola, Gwyneth Paltrow played a similar character (also named Viola) in "Shakespeare in Love," and she won the Oscar for the performance.
Michael Caine had not yet won an Oscar when he (SPOILER ALERT) played a cross-dressing killer in Brian De Palma's 1980 thriller "Dressed to Kill." But he had already received two nominations and it would only be four more years until his first Supporting Actor win, with "Hannah and Her Sisters." Caine was actually nominated for a Razzie, partly for "Dressed to Kill," which goes to show that the Academy overlooks bad performances in the careers of its honorees. Or that the Razzies have a misplaced sense of judgment.
Long before he won his first Best Actor Oscar, Tom Hanks starred in the sitcom "Bosom Buddies," in which he and Peter Scolari disguised themselves as women in order to live in a ladies-only apartment building. Not that it would ever happen, but if Hanks decided to revisit the role and series for a feature film, it's unlikely he would receive the same level of disapproval that Foxx has garnered. There'd still be some criticism of the idea, but nobody would call for the Academy to take away Hanks' Oscars. Then again, is anyone really serious in crying that Foxx's own win should be revoked?