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Linda Hunt: the different faces of an 80s actress



Strangely enough, actress Linda Hunt -- who stands 4-foot-9 -- will probably be best remembered for being a man.

Hunt, who turned 61 years old Sunday, is the only person to win an Academy Award for playing a member of the opposite sex. She nabbed the Oscar for her role as Billy Kwan in 1982's The Year of Living Dangerously.

Sure, other actors have been praised for playing a person pretending to be a member of the opposite sex (Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, Barbra Streisand in Yentl, Hillary Swank in Boys Don't Cry), but Hunt's performance was unique in that there was no masquerade, cross-dressing or gender confusion involved.

The movie told the story of an Australian journalist, Guy Hamilton (played by a youthful looking Mel Gibson), who comes to Indonesia in 1965 to report on the region's political upheaval. He is befriended and helped by photographer Billy Kwan (Hunt), who also introduces Hamilton to a romantic interest played by Sigourney Weaver. Director Peter Weir would go to direct other classics such as Witness and Dead Poet's Society while Gibson and Weaver saw their careers take off as well.

Hunt meanwhile continued to compile an impressive slate of roles, including parts in Dune, Eleni and another memorable role as the elementary school principal in Kindergarten Cop. These days, she continues to act and does a considerable amount of television and cinematic voice work. (You'd hear her in Pocahontas, Carnivale and God of War.)

One sad note to her Oscar win: Rumor has it that Hunt, still wearing the short haircut of her Kwan character, was turned away from the ladies' restroom at the Academy Awards presentation that year, even though she was wearing a dress for the occasion. Perhaps the snub was proof positive that the Oscar for her performance was well-earned.

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 2:17pm]


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