Eddie Redmayne’s upcoming movie, The Danish Girl tells the story of a transgender woman from 1930’s and the way her transition affected her life. It’s an atypical story, as the plot is set in early 20th century when society was different, and the medical sector was underdeveloped. However, the movie explores the depths of transitioning. In the leading role we see Redmayne himself who has also gone through changes and new experiences for this role.
In a recent interview he talked about his role in The Danish Girl, gender and shifting between the roles. His features are delicate, his body does not burst with masculinity but he is comfortable with this. “I look like my mum,” Redmayne says without leaving any trace of fluster. “I’ve played women since I was a kid and I’ve always enjoyed it.”
Redmayne’s roles were always diversified; he played roles including straight men (The Theory of Everything, Les Mis), bisexual characters (Cabaret), transgender women (The Danish Girl) and impersonations of women. His first professional role was of a woman, in Twelfth Night. He played the role of Viola, in a Elizabethan all-male Shakespeare’s Globe play.
After his role in Twelfth Night, critic Paul Taylor from Independent commented: “I think that Eddie Redmayne (the undergraduate from Trinity College, Cambridge who is scandalously persuasive as Viola) would bring out the bisexual in any man.”
The role from The Danish Girls was like nothing the actor had experienced before. “The difference is trans experience,” Redmayne highlights, “and learning about it from trans people.”
The actor explored the journey of being trans by reading Elbe’s posthumously published memoir, Man Into Woman and talking to trans women, who were very opened to talk about their experience. At a point, Redmayne discovered a disruption of the script from reality.
“What a lot of the women I met told me about were the disastrous failures of the first time they were going out [dressed in women’s clothes],” Redmayne admits, “but the script demanded that an audience at moments — and the public — believe Lili instantly in her femininity.”
One of the hardest parts in playing the role was the way other sees it. Whether they see Redmayne or Lili on the screen, and not only on screen but also in real life?
“One of the things that I felt constantly scrutinized by was, am I passing? And then I was also constantly frustrated with that term because it’s not about – in some ways it was maybe to begin about [Lili’s] passing in some ways, but then I hope by the end it’s not, it’s just about her being who she is.
“I certainly felt the scrutiny and judgment of the people around me about how I was looking.”
However he thinks that where people place themselves in the spectrum of gender is unique, but as an actor that position changes:
“If gender is on a spectrum, where one finds oneself is completely unique,” he concludes. “I also think it is wherever we are born that you are influenced by where you are, [and by] what your circumstances are as well. So I think it’s very difficult to know, also particularly as an actor, when your job is to go into different versions of gender.”