Playing the Part

As those of you who haven't been living under a rock the past month are well aware, Eddie Redmayne took home the Academy Award for Best Actor following the 87th Academy Awards. His work in The Theory of Everything was quite incredible, and needless to say, he's pretty hot in Hollywood right now.

Getting an Academy Award attached to your name has this way of drawing the public's eye and bringing work in from all over the industry; Redmayne's latest project is called The Danish Girl, about a young transgender woman named Lili Elbe who was a painter in the 1920s. Redmayne, shown in costume in the attached photo, disappears seamlessly into the role. As is the case with many films featuring actors only playing the part of transgender individuals, there arises the issue of casting ethics. Does a filmmaker cast an actual transgender man/woman, or use a non-trans actor for the role?

This year, transgender characters are making more of a splash in the film and television world, with the rising popularity of the award-winning Amazon original series, Transparent, and the hype surrounding Tangerine, an indie film that premiered at Sundance this year and that was shot entirely on an iPhone 5. Tangerine features actual transgender women as actors, while Transparent's lead, Jeffrey Tambor does not identify as transgender. It's certainly an exciting time in the film industry, as the public's eyes are being opened to new, challenging material of the world we live in.

What is important to remember, I believe, is that film is, first and foremost, an art form. Certainly, Hollywood is notoriously run by white, cisgender men, and so there has been an imbalance in representation, but it might not be fair to limit a director's pool of actors to a certain category of the population. To exclude transgender actors from a production based on their identification is discriminatory, undoubtedly, but to turn down a more qualified actor may not be the best artistic decision.

What do you think?

Read more about Eddie Redmayne's latest film, The Danish Girl, by clicking on this link!


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