Story at a glance

  • The English actor Eddie Redmayne said he wouldn’t take on the role of the transgender artist Lili Elbe, whom he portrayed in 2015, if he were offered the part now.
  • His performance was met with some criticism even before the film was released because many people felt a trans actor should have been given the role.
  • Hollywood has a long history of giving transgender parts to cisgender actors, and Jared Leto and Hilary Swank each won an Oscar for their performances as trans characters.

The oscar-winning British actor Eddie Redmayne over the weekend said he regrets taking on the role of a transgender woman in “The Danish Girl.”“No, I wouldn’t take it on now. I made that film with the best intentions, but I think it was a mistake,” Redmayne told The Sunday Times.

The actor, who won his first Oscar in 2015 for his portrayal of the disabled scientist Steven Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” said he understands some of the disappointment around his casting in “The Danish Girl.”

“The bigger discussion about the frustrations around casting is because many people don’t have a chair at the table. There must be a leveling, otherwise we are going to carry on having these debates,” he said.

Redmayne in “The Danish Girl,” for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, portrayed the early 20th-century Danish artist Lili Elbe, born Einar Wegener, one of the first people in the world to undergo gender affirmation surgery.


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The film was met with some criticism for its casting of a cisgender male actor to play Elbe even before its official release in 2015. Some called for the character to be played by a trans actor, a group often underrepresented in Hollywood.

“I think it's an incredibly important discussion. And I think it’s also representative of a lot of discrimination against trans people in the workplace generally,” Redmayne told IndieWire at the time. “I think there has been years of cisgender success on the back of trans stories.”

In the same interview, Redmayne justified his portrayal of Elbe by pointing out that the transgender actress Rebecca Root played a cisgender character in the film.

Hollywood’s history of giving transgender roles to cisgender actors is well-documented. The actor Matt Bomer was slammed for his 2017 portrayal of a transgender woman in “Anything,” as was the actress Elle Fanning the same year for her performance as a transgender teen boy in “3 Generations.” Scarlett Johansson in 2018 famously backed out of the film “Rub and Tug” after her casting sparked outrage in the trans community. The project was later revived as a television series and casted a transgender actress.

Felicity Huffman was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of a trans woman in “Transamerica,” and both Hilary Swank and Jared Leto won Academy Awards for their performances as transgender characters in “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Dallas Buyers Club,” respectively.

Redmayne had been cast in female roles prior to “The Danish Girl,” and played Viola in a production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” early in his career. He currently stars in “Cabaret” at London’s Playhouse Theatre as The Emcee, the Kit Kat Klub’s sexually fluid ringleader.

“I would ask people to come and see it before casting judgment,” Redmayne told The Sunday Times.


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Published on Nov 22, 2021