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Should Eddie Redmayne Be Regretful for his Role in the Danish Girl?

 

Eddie Redmayne played the first transgender woman to undergo sexual reassignment surgery.

 

“No, I wouldn’t make that film now. I made that film with the best intentions, but I think it was a mistake.”

From Theory of Everything and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them fame, Eddie Redmayne has made headlines this morning by claiming that his role in The Danish Girl was a mistake.

Ironic, given how he was nominated for an Academy Award in 2016 for his portrayal of a transgender pioneer. The movie was released on November 27th, 2015. And it tells the story of Lili Elbe, one of the first recipients of gender reassignment surgery.

The main reason why Redmayne regrets playing the part nearly six years after the film is that he considers the role should’ve been played by a transgender actor, something that many critics pointed out when the film first came out.  Redmayne went further and even said that he wouldn’t take the job if it were offered to him now, even though he won a Best Actor nomination thanks to it.

Don’t be confused with the intention behind his shocking statements, though!

Redmayne isn’t regretful of playing the transgender role because of prejudice or aversion to such roles. His concerns and that of many of the film’s critics come from the fact that, while the role did start many conversations regarding the life and experiences of transgender people, it kind of started that conversation on the wrong foot.

If a transgender person had played the leading character role, imagine the possibilities for providing exposure to the LGBTQ+ community in a time where it definitely needs some realistic portrayals of trans people and their struggles. All the interviews, the invitations to late-night shows, and even the Oscar nomination from playing a role in the film would’ve been given to a transgender actor instead of Redmayne.

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

Some people have gone further and labelled his apologies as nonsensical. After all, movies need actors to play them no matter their backgrounds.

However, the problem isn’t just the fact that a straight person played a trans woman on film. Actors are hired to play roles, and though inclusivity and accurate portrayals are a must, it’s still part of their job description to act like people they are not.

The issue arises when almost all Hollywood films and significant studios only cast straight cis-gender actors for trans roles, and the opposite is rarely true. Why does it seem like all of these important LGBTQ+ roles aren’t played by the myriad of LGBTQ+ actors available to do it themselves?

This role would’ve allowed a speaker for the community to shed some light on common transgender issues that no matter how much research, a cis-gender person will never know entirely because they didn’t experience it themselves.

Redmayne researched the transgender community by having discussions with trans people in his immediate network, including big names such as The Matrix director Lana Wachowski, a trans woman. This still doesn’t change that no matter how much he prepared for the role, Redmayne’s still a cisgender man playing the role of a trans person.

Alicia Vikander, who played Gerda Wegener in the film, has shared this sentiment too. Vikander won The Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in The Danish Girl and even acknowledged that things would be even better if we got to a point where we could have trans women and men playing cis characters.

Eddie Redmayne pictured with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling

 

JK Rowling, the world-famous author of Harry Potter, went under flak due to several controversial tweets in June 2020 that made her come off as strongly transphobic. Redmayne played Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and spoke out against her comments in a statement made to Variety.

Redmayne is currently playing Emcee in a West End production of Cabaret, a sexually ambiguous character traditionally played by LGBT performers. He urged the public to come and watch his character without prejudice; as per his own words, this is the first character he plays without any pigeonholing.

Considering how Redmayne has spoken out in favour of the LGTBQ+ community and against Rowling’s tweets, it’s safe to say that his personal opinion regarding his role as Elbe has changed a lot ever since 2016.