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Eddie Redmayne on trying to find some of The Danish Girl in himself

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Eddie Redmayne, who won an Oscar playing Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, returns to the screen this week with another transformational performance in The Danish Girl. Directed by Tom Hooper, the film tells the story of artist and transgender pioneer Lili Elbe — the first known recipient of gender confirmation surgery — and wife Gerda Wegener (Redmayne and Alicia Vikander).

During a video interview at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year, Redmayne, Hooper, and Vikander spoke to EW about what drew them to Lili and Gerda’s story, and how they tried to tell it.

“I read [the script] and it was profoundly moving, and a story about love and what it takes to be authentic, what it takes to be yourself,” Redmayne said. “So I sort of jumped on board, and then I started meeting people from the trans community and people of different generations and hearing their stories. Across the board, every single woman I met said, ‘Ask me anything. There is no question, there is no territory that you can’t [ask]’ in order to educate me as a cisgender person.”

Then, Redmayne said, he “looked at Lili’s story and then some of Gerda’s paintings and began to try and accumulate all that, and find some of her in me.”

Hooper added, “We wanted to capture both the release from anxiety of becoming your true self but also the release into anxiety of going on a transition journey in the 1920s, when there was no support, no predecessor for this kind of journey.”

For more from Redmayne, Hooper, and Vikander, watch the video above. The Danish Girl opens Friday.