Actor made trans role a last-minute replacement after producers feared an over-the-top approach would not align with the story
Eddie Redmayne has said that he believes it was a mistake to portray a transgender character in a film, saying that the way a transgender character should be approached has changed since he was first offered the role.
The actor played Einar Wegener in the film The Danish Girl, who in the first half of the movie becomes the first documented transgender model, and also the first woman in history to receive a penis transplant.
Redmayne met Wegener during pre-production and, after the film was released, met her again and learnt that she wanted to have sex reassignment surgery.
“To play any trans role to be supported is a joy. To be replaced, in my eyes, was a mistake,” Redmayne told the Observer. “It didn’t fit in with the experience that I’d had of getting to know and work with [weaver].”
In the film, Wegener attempts to seduce the married artist Lili Elbe, but rejects her advances out of fear.
Redmayne said that the directors of the film, Tom Hooper and David Seidler, offered the role when he was reluctant to take it after learning that a trans person had played the role before him.
“I absolutely wanted to do it, and didn’t know that it had been played before me,” Redmayne said. “They came back with, ‘You’re the only person that we’ve seen at this point who looks as if he’s a woman’. It was a bit of a relief and the biggest game-changer.”
Redmayne’s decision was subsequently questioned on gender issues. The actors Idris Elba and Uma Thurman were reported to have considered the role but backed out.
Speaking on Saturday, director Hooper said that Redmayne was first suggested after all of the male members of the cast signed on.
“It was before its time,” Hooper said. “So as soon as I had written Eddie [the character] we said it would be great for Eddie to come in.”
With the role now in the past, Redmayne said that he believed “we should have respect and understand for a person’s journey and the journey they’ve chosen,” when asked about the film’s subject matter.
When filming was completed, Redmayne said he was delighted to have the chance to meet Wegener again. “What stood out for me the most is her strength,” he said. “I remember asking, ‘How are you?’ Her answer was, ‘We are born like this, always’. That really spoke to me.”
Redmayne was the front-runner for an Oscar in February, after winning the best actor gong for his role in The Theory of Everything, in which he played physicist Stephen Hawking.
The actor is also working on a new film, Surface, in which he will play a man who loses his memory and becomes a crime scene cleaner.