Eddie Redmayne has said that he was wrong to play a transgender character in The Danish Girl, saying “that wasn’t right for me”. The Oscar-winning actor reflected on playing Lili Elbe in the film, which he received an Oscar for in 2015.
The Danish Girl, directed by Tom Hooper, told the story of Elbe’s transition from male to female in the early 30s. After Elbe had begun to live as a woman in 1965, Redmayne was cast, but said he had made the mistake of thinking there was no big difference between transgender women and cisgender women.
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“I thought that was a common character. I have a clear understanding now that they’re two very different things,” Redmayne told Attitude magazine. “I have to say, in the edit I wish I’d spent more time thinking about this, because what I was doing was making a big error.
“It’s a huge irony that from the outside it seems so natural, and it’s not,” he added. “A moment from this film – and it’s very confronting – is when he says to a stranger in a gas station: ‘Do you know who I am?’ And she asks him his name and what he does, and he just stares at her and says: ‘I’m Lili’. That moment, in that exact moment, sums up what the trans community have been going through. It’s so alien to them. It’s not even the right question for them. And I missed that.”
He added: “He’s not telling her his full name, because she wouldn’t ever know – it’s not the same as a cisgender woman revealing her identity to a cisgender man, who has an empathy for her, who can see that her courage is brave and her hopes are hard-earned. Lili doesn’t even know that it’s Lili’s voice that’s being heard. That’s the conflict that the trans community have been facing: how to be seen as real people, and to remember that they’re complicated and they’re beautiful. But it’s also very important to remember that they’re less than equal, and that is what I feel we need to address in the community. We’re lucky. We’re the richest and most educated and we have the highest standard of living.”
He said that on the night of the Oscar ceremony he almost passed out in his dressing room when he saw Caitlyn Jenner, who had also taken on a trans role, being interviewed by Piers Morgan. “I looked up at the television and all I could think about was that she could be anyone. She could be me, or my son, or my father. She could be anybody. This was her story and she was asking the audience to look at her, to acknowledge her as a real person. The entire room was silent. Piers Morgan couldn’t stop laughing, but I couldn’t.”
Redmayne is about to star in the Hugh Grant film Tulip Fever, in which he plays a real-life figure, but he said he would never play a transgender role again.