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The art of portraying a character demands a lot out of actors, especially when the role requires that they take on circumstances and characteristics that are totally foreign. This is particularly apparent when actors are called to channel aspects of gender and sexuality beyond who they really are. It takes more than just a man in drag or a women dressing butch to do these stories justice. In the wrong hands, these sensitive roles can seem too camp, flat or stereotypical to convey the subtle nuances that give the character authenticity and depth. In the right hands, though, these parts can impact an audience and elevate a career. Here are 15 stars who gave critically acclaimed performances for such gender bending roles.

1. Eddie Redmayne

Eddie Redmayne took on a challenging role for the film The Danish Girl. The film focus on the complexities and psychology of a transgender artist in an era where this was essentially unheard of. Based on a true story, Eddie was cast as the painter Einar Wegener who underwent the first recorded gender reassignment surgery in the 1930’s and later became Lili Elbe. His sensitive performance is has been nominated for a 2016 Oscar.

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Eddie Redmayne
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Actor Eddie Redmayne
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2. Glenn Close

In the film Albert Nobbs, Glenn Close was cast to play a woman who went her through her life as a man in 19th century Ireland. She actually first played the role in an off-Broadway adaption 29 years prior, and believed it would make a good film. She produced it herself and shot the film for under $8 million.

Glenn Close as Albert Nobbs
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Glenn Close
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