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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Eddie Redmayne: Taking transgender role was a ‘mistake’

Eddie Redmayne has admitted that taking a transgender role was a “mistake” and he would not do it now, following criticism over the casting.

Redmayne was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of landscape artist Lili Elbe, who underwent the world’s first gender reassignment surgery, in the 2015 film The Danish Girl.

The casting attracted criticism from campaigners who suggested a transgender actor should have been chosen.

Despite previously defending taking the part, six years on, Redmayne has spoken of his regret.

“No, I wouldn’t take it on now,” he told the Sunday Times Culture magazine. “I made that film with the best intentions, but I think it was a mistake.”

Director Tom Hooper said at the time that his “instinct was always Eddie” for the role, because “there was something in him that was drawn to the feminine”.

But Redmayne said: “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.”

Adapted from a novel of the same name by David Ebershoff, the film tells the real story of painter Einar Wegener, who felt he was living in the wrong body and underwent a series of operations in 1931 to become a woman called Lili Elbe.

Prominent trans activist Paris Lees criticised Redmayne’s casting in 2015, saying: “What right does Eddie Redmayne have playing a transgender woman?

“You could, of course, have asked, last year, what right Eddie Redmayne had playing Stephen Hawking, a man with motor neurone disease, in the Theory of Everything. A role that earned him an Oscar.

“In that case, though, Eddie had the endorsement of the man himself. Lili Elbe is long dead, but I wonder how a living trans woman would feel about being played by a fella?”

In 2015, Redmayne told the Telegraph: “I find myself occasionally making mistakes but when you meet trans men and women you realise how upsetting that is, because they were born a gender and it just happened to not be this one that they were assigned.  

“And I hope that in some ways our film continues the discussion, because us learning to be allies to the trans community is so important.”

Last year, the actor criticised JK Rowling over a controversial tweet in which she made light of an opinion editorial that discussed “people who menstruate”.

Her comments triggered a furious backlash, with Redmayne, who also stars in the Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts spin-off, going public with his disagreement.

“I disagree with Jo’s comments. Trans women are women, trans men are men and non-binary identities are valid,” he said. 

Later he spoke of his “alarm” at the “vitriol” hurled at Rowling, while adding that his “trans friends and colleagues” are “facing discrimination on a daily basis”.

His next role is in the West End revival of Cabaret, where the married father-of-two will play the sexually ambiguous Emcee, a character which has historically been portrayed as homosexual or bisexual who he first played 20 years ago at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

“Of all the characters I’ve ever read, this one defies pigeonholing,” he told the Sunday Times. “I would ask people to come and see it before casting judgment.”

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