Eddie Redmayne was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in The Danish Girl, but now he is having second thoughts about the role he took on. Redmayne played the part of Lili Elbe, a Danish illustrator who is remembered as one of the first recipients of gender reassignment surgery. Highly experimental at the time, the procedure eventually led to Elbe’s death, aged only 48.
Now, Redmayne has said he was wrong to play the part he did:
‘I made that film with the best intentions, but I think it was a mistake.’
Why? Redmayne’s response was opaque:
‘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.’
If Redmayne won’t name the debate, I will: should actors who are not trans play characters who are trans? It is a simple question. But while Redmayne probably thinks he is being thoughtful towards trans people in suggesting he wouldn’t take a similar role again, I’m not convinced.
A year before Redmayne starred in The Danish Girl, he played Stephen Hawking in another biographical romantic drama, The Theory of Everything. Was it OK for a physicist to be portrayed by someone who is not a physicist?
As a trans physicist I fail to see the distinction between these two films, unless an assumption is being made that trans people are somehow distinct from the rest of humanity. We are normal human beings much the same as everyone else, and I campaign for our right to live in society in much the same way as everyone else.