In the upcoming film The Danish Girl, Eddie Redmayne stars as transgender woman Lili Elbe, an artist who had sexual reassignment surgery in the 1930s. For Out Magazine’s September cover story, he opened up about the preparation that went into playing a transgender icon — and how his research impacted his own views.
“My greatest ignorance when I started was that gender and sexuality were related,” he told Out. “And that’s one of the key things I want to hammer home to the world: You can be gay or straight, trans man or woman, and those two things are not necessarily aligned.”
To prepare for his role as the trans pioneer, Redmayne thoroughly researched transgender theory and history, reaching out to prominent trans activists like Paris Lees and April Ashley for guidance. He also asked Jupiter Ascending director Lana Wachowski, a transgender woman, for advice.
“Virtually all of the trans men and women I met would say, ‘Ask me anything,’” Redmayne said. “They know that need for cisgender people to be educated. I felt like, I’m being given this extraordinary experience of being able to play this woman, but with that comes this responsibility of not only educating myself but hopefully using that to educate [an audience]. Gosh, it’s delicate. And complicated.”
The Oscar winner also told Out that he’s “nervous” about how the film will be received by the trans community, especially as figures like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox have helped bring trans issues into public awareness.
“I absolutely salute her courage,” Redmayne said about Jenner. “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.”
The Danish Girl will be released Nov. 27.
For more on Redmayne, head to Out.