In 2015, English actor Eddie Redmayne was heavily criticized for accepting the role of Lili Elbe in the movie The Danish Girl.
Lili Elbe was one of the first people to undergo gender affirmation surgery and Redmayne earned an Academy Award nomination for his performance in the movie.
Back in 2015, the actor received fiery criticisms for portraying a transgender woman in the film. Many people had an issue with Redmayne, who is a cisgender man, being cast in a role that could have been offered to a transgender woman.
In an interview with Sunday Times, Redmayne was asked to reflect on his performance as Lili Elbe, and whether he would take on the role today.
“No, I wouldn’t take it on now,” Redmayne said, before acknowledging that his casting had been a total mistake.
“I made that film with the best intentions, but I think it was a mistake,” Redmayne explained.
The actor went to talk about the much wider issue of marginalized actors being underrepresented in Hollywood and said that “there must be a leveling.”
“The bigger discussion about the frustrations around casting is because many people don’t have a chair at the table,” he added. “There must be a leveling, otherwise we are going to carry on having these debates.”
His portrayal of Lili Elbe was a talking point during the 2020 Netflix documentary Disclosure, which shed light on the way that Hollywood has treated transgender lives.
In the documentary which was written by trans writer trans Jen Richards, she explained that casting a cisgender man to portray transgender women not only deprives more deserving trans actors of roles but also reinforces incredibly offensive stereotypes about trans women.
Richards also described how the casting of cisgender men in trans roles has far wider and more dangerous implications with regards to the safety of the trans community as a whole.
“Having cis men play trans women, in my mind, is a direct link to the violence against trans women,” she explained. “Part of the reason That men end up killing trans women, out of fear that other men will think that their gay for having been with trans women, is that their friends the men whose judgment they fear of only know trans women from media, and the people playing trans women are the men that they know.”
“This doesn’t happen when a trans woman plays a trans woman,” she continued.
Redmayne’s casting in The Danish Girl came directly after his critically acclaimed portrayal of Stephen Hawking an astrophysicist who had a paralyzing illness in The Theory of Everything in 2014.
He was awarded an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as the late physicist, who was diagnosed with motor neuron disease at 21 years old.
Redmayne’s portrayal was met with a lot of praise, including Stephen Hawking himself, who said that he mistook the actor for himself several times while he watched the movie.
According to Out Magazine, when Redmayne was questioned about taking on the role of Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl back in 2014, he responded: “Look, I’ve just played a man in his 50s with motor neuron disease. I’m acting.”