Eddie Redmayne is the cover star of Out's September 2015 Fall Preview issue. The Oscar-winning actor sat down with Paul Flynn to discuss his upcoming role as 20th century transgender icon Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl (out in theaters November 27). Redmayne talked about his shift in gender perception, playing an iconic trans role as a cisgender actor, and how three years of education under the trans community prepared him for the role of a lifetime. Here, five things we learned.
On not feeling overly masculine or thinking in a gendered way:
“No, not massively.” He is not sure how male he feels. “God, that’s an interesting question. I don’t know if I ever think of it like that.” He stumbles to recall whether there were traditional male and female roles prescribed in the house in which he grew up. “I suppose it depends what you think of as masculine and feminine. I was musical, and I was into theater and arts, but I was also into sports, so I had quite a broad spectrum. I can also totally see that other people see a femininity in me.” He has been aware of this perception before, in life as in work. He is not a butch man. “No. No, no, no, absolutely not.”
On receiving advice from the trans community on upcoming role:
“People were so kind and generous with their experience, but also so open. 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. I felt like, I’m being given this extraordinary experience of being able to play this women, 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.
On the advice and direction given specifically by Lana Wachowski:
“But I did start talking to Lana about Lili and she told me how important the book, Man into Woman, was to her. And also the art, specifically of Gerda. She very kindly continued my education, pointed me to literature, and where I should be headed.”
On Caitlyn Jenner and current conversation surrounding the trans community:
“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 she’s gone through and how she’s done it. It’s a civil rights movement.”
What the role of Lili Elbe has taught him about gender:
“That it’s fluid, I suppose. And also that it needn’t be labeled. My greatest ignorance when I started was that gender and sexuality were related. 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.”