The Academy's reigning Best Actor-winner Eddie Redmayne is ready to wow us all again by portraying another one of history's most important figures. This time, the "Theory of Everything" star is giving new life to the story of Lili Elbe, the first-known person to undergo successful gender reassignment surgery, in Tom Hooper's "The Danish Girl."
Speaking to OUT Magazine about his new role, Redmayne said that when he first read the script for the picture, which would re-team him with his esteemed "Les Misérables" director, he "found it profoundly moving," even if he hadn't heard Elbe's story before.
"I knew nothing about it, going in," explained Redmayne. "It felt like it was a piece about authenticity and love and the courage it takes to be yourself."
Thanks to his work alongside transgender director Lana Wachowski in "Jupiter Ascending," too, Redmayne was able to get some strong advice on how to approach the material and do Lili's story justice on-screen.
"I did start talking to Lana about Lili and she told me how important the book, 'Man into Woman' was to her," he explained. "And also the art, specifically of Gerda [a fellow artist whom Lili had married in 1904, before her transition]. She very kindly continued my education, pointed me to literature, and where I should be headed." Redmayne also sought the advice of British activist Paris Lees and former Vogue model April Ashley in the preparatory process.
"People were so kind and generous with their experience, but also so open," he told the mag. "Virtually all of the trans men and women I met would say, 'Ask me anything.' They know that need for cisgender people to be educated."
Indeed, the surge of public attention to the transgender issues brought on by Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair feature makes "The Danish Girl" an even more timely and important picture, and Redmayne knows it too. "It’s a civil rights moment," he told OUT.
"I was in New York when the Vanity Fair cover came out and I was reading The New York Times, and all of the op-ed pieces that were being written about it. The dialogue was so rich and full, with everyone having opinions. Then I came back and saw the trailer for the film," said Redmayne.
"I absolutely salute her courage. Hers is a very specific story, and it's one that shouldn't stand for everybody's. But it is amazing what’s she gone through and how she's done it."