In a move that has prompted a huge amount of respect from the LGBTQ+ community and their allies, Eddie Redmayne has confessed that his portrayal of transgender artist Lili Elbe in 2015’s The Danish Girl was probably not the wisest choice of roles.

Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl / Photo credit: Universal Pictures

Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl / Photo credit: Universal Pictures

“I made that film with the best intentions, but I think it was a mistake”, he told the Sunday Times. “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.”

Certainly, the actor is not the only one to have made this kind of mistake. Cis actors have been playing trans characters for decades at this point, and it’s time filmmakers took more care in who they choose to tell trans stories.

Let’s discuss a few other movies that have seen the wrong kind of actors in iconic trans roles.

Terence Stamp in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

This film about Australian queens had Guy Pearce and Hugo Weaving playing drag artists, while Terrence Stamp, unfortunately, portrayed transgender woman Bernadette Bassenger. 

It is largely a comedy movie, but there are enough serious and profound moments in there that warrant the character to be taken seriously. The character has a number of excellent lines in the movie in response to the abuse she receives being trans; some of those quotes would’ve gone down in history as iconic had a trans woman delivered them. 

Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club

If you’re inventing a trans character for a movie that tells a true story, why not cast a genuine trans actor? Dallas Buyers Club, starring Matthew McConaughey as AIDS patient Ron Woodroof, tells the story of a man who sets up a club to buy experimental AIDS medication. Helping him on his journey is HIV-positive trans woman Rayon, played by Jared Leto. He won an Oscar for the role, which only makes his miscasting more frustrating.

The director, Jean-Marc Vallee, has since not only shown no regret at his decision to cast a cis man in a trans role, but total ignorance in the existence of trans people in the entertainment industry altogether.

“Is there any transgender actor? To my knowledge — I don’t know one. I didn’t even think about it,” he said on CBC Radio, adding, when told that there were transgender actors: “Which ones? There’s like five, or three, or what — two? I never thought of that.”

Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry

The biggest crime about this casting is that this is a real person’s real story. Hilary Swank portrays Brandon Teena in this tragic re-telling of the trans man’s life and murder. 

Brandon was just 21-years-old when he was brutally raped and killed by acquaintances who took exception to his transgender status. 

The least that Boys Don’t Cry filmmakers could have done was enlist a transgender man to portray him. Needless to say, the 1999 movie only served to suggest that Brandon was simply a woman “pretending” to be a man.

On a more positive note, like Eddie Redmayne, Hilary Swank has since admitted that a trans actor would’ve been more appropriate for the role, and insisted that she would not take the role if it were offered to her now.

Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent

This Amazon TV series, which ran from 2014 to 2019, was certainly the straw that broke the camel’s back when it came to casting cis actors in trans roles. 

Jeffrey Tambor won two Emmys for his role as a parent coming out as a trans woman at a late stage in life. But despite advocating for more trans representation in film and TV and saying “I would be happy if I were the last cisgender male to play a transgender female”, he did not withdraw from the show - which only goes to further the hypocrisy of supposed trans allies.

It certainly doesn’t help that he was eventually fired from the show after sexual misconduct allegations were made by two trans women. 

Cillian Murphy in Breakfast on Pluto

This cult Irish film is not well enough known not recent enough to have warranted a public outcry over Cillian Murphy playing Patrick Braden aka Kitten in the 2005 film adaptation of Patrick McCabe’s 1998 novel Breakfast on Pluto, but when news of a musical version was set to hit the stage, it felt like an exciting time for a do-over.

Unfortunately, it was cis male actor Fra Fee who landed the lead role, prompting trans actor Kate O'Donnell (who was offerered the role of Patrick’s mother) not to appear in the show. The musical’s producers claimed they “tried” to cast a trans person in the role, with O’Donnell suggesting they “didn’t try hard enough”.

MORE: Annie Wallace: Trans actors should play trans characters if at all possible

“I could not be in a show where a trans woman is once again seen as a man in a dress as this perpetuates the idea that this is what a trans woman is and leads to violence, even death”, she said in a statement.

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