The True Story Behind ‘The Danish Girl,’ Eddie Redmayne’s Next Role

Truly I don’t give a shit.  I have no desire to see this film.  I read the original book back in the 1970s and I am long past caring about the subject matter.  I’d rather watch the latest Liam Neeson action movie.

From Think Progress:

March 3, 2015

Eddie Redmayne — Oscar winner for The Theory of Everything, delightful-seeming British person in real life — is starring in The Danish Girl, a film based on a novel inspired by the life of Lili Elbe. Elbe was one of the first transgender women to successfully undergo sex-reassignment surgery; the movie, due out in 2016, is directed by Tom Hooper (who previously worked with Redmayne in 2012’s family-friendly singalong, Les Miserables). The first photo of Redmayne as Elbe, above, was released last week.

Who was Lili Elbe? And was there a responsibility here, on the part of the filmmakers, to cast a trans actress in this role?

Susan Stryker is a professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Arizona and a transgender historian and filmmaker. She’s been in touch with producers of the The Danish Girl, commenting on the script and, through producer Gail Mutrux, has answered questions from Redmayne and director Tom Hooper. “They’re trying to do a good job,” she said by phone. “They’re not trying to do anything exploitative; they’re very sensitive to questions of how trans issues are going to be presented and received, by both mainstream audiences and by the trans community… I was really impressed when I first talked to them about the level of outreach and due diligence they had been doing. So I’m not, in any way, wanting to trash the film. I’m actually very curious to see what happens.”

 As for the fact that Elbe, a transgender woman, will be portrayed in the film by a cisgender man, Stryker said, “I’m on the fence about that one.” Redmayne’s response on this front has been both diplomatic (“There is an incredibly valid discussion for why a trans actress isn’t playing the part, because there are so many brilliant trans actresses, and I’m sure there are many who could play this part sensationally.”) and somewhat unsatisfying. He told The Telegraph that “one of the complications is that nowadays you have hormones, and many trans women have taken hormones. But to start this part playing male you’d have to come off the hormones, so that has been a discussion as well. Because back in that period there weren’t hormones.”

Stryker didn’t totally buy that justification. “It’s like, as if you’re not going to have to use prosthesis for the after. To me, that’s a little bit of a cop-out. Which says nothing about whether he’s going to do a good job.”

“There are an increasing number of trans actresses who could do just fine,” she said. “And I hope they get the breaks that they deserve. This does seem like a missed opportunity, to not cast a trans person. And the thing that I think casting non-trans actors in trans roles perpetuates is the sense that the trans person always kind of looks like their other-birth-assigned sex, and it doesn’t really account for what hormones do, what surgery does, what it’s like to live in a social gender long term. It has the effect of making all trans people appear to be early-transitioning people.”

“However good a job Eddie does on this,” she said. “It’s about time that we have trans people playing trans characters.”

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