Eddie Redmayne: playing a trans character in The Danish Girl was ‘a mistake’

The actor, who was criticised at the film’s release in 2015, has said in an interview that he would not take the role on if offered it now

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them star Eddie Redmayne has described his participation in the trans drama The Danish Girl as “a mistake”, adding that he “wouldn’t take it on now”.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Redmayne agreed that the criticism he received for appearing in the film was justified, saying: “I made that film with the best intentions, but I think it was a mistake.”

He added: “The bigger discussion about the frustrations around casting is because many people don’t have a chair at the table. There must be a levelling, otherwise we are going to carry on having these debates.”

The Danish Girl, released in 2015, starred Redmayne as Lili Ilse Elvenes (AKA Lili Elbe), a painter and one of the first known recipients of sex reassignment surgery in 1930. Elbe died in 1931, after her fourth operation. The Danish Girl received considerable criticism at the time, both for Redmayne’s portrayal of Elbe in the film – which trans writer Carol Grant described as “regressive, reductive, and contribut[ing] to harmful stereotypes” – and for failing to cast a trans actor in the leading role.

Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl
Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl Photograph: Agatha A Nitecka/AP

On its US release in November 2015, Redmayne defended his casting by saying: “I hope – as an actor one hopes – that one should be able to play any sort of part if one plays it with a sense of integrity and responsibility.” At the Venice film festival in 2015, where The Danish Girl received its world premiere, the film’s director Tom Hooper acknowledged the film industry had a “problem” with trans characters and actors, and that after reaching out to trans acting communities, the film had included “40 or 50 trans supporting artists”, and added: “I’m pleased we achieved what we did, but I’m sure there’s more to do.”

In June 2020, Redmayne publicly disagreed with Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts author JK Rowling after her controversial statement on trans and women’s rights, saying: “I disagree with Jo’s comments. Trans women are women, trans men are men and non-binary identities are valid.” He later said he was alarmed by the “vitriol” aimed at Rowling and that the social media reaction was “absolutely disgusting”.

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