Eddie Redmayne’s transgender confusion

Trans people are human beings just like everyone else – and trans characters should be played by the best actor available

Eddie Redmayne is clearly still troubled by his portrayal of the transsexual Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl. Eight years after Redmayne’s acclaimed performance, it is the one film the actor seems nervous talking about. Now, Redmayne has distanced himself again from that role – and suggested he will no longer take parts that could go to trans actors.

‘No one wants to be limited by their gender or sexuality but, historically, these communities haven’t had a seat at the table. Until there’s a levelling, there are certain parts I wouldn’t play,’ he said in an interview with the Guardian.

This isn’t the first time Redmayne has put on sack cloth. Back in 2021, he conceded that his decision to play a trans person was a ‘mistake’. Of course, Redmayne has never expressed any trouble with taking the role of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, and Redmayne is no physicist. More recently, in a Netflix drama released last year, he portrayed Charlie Cullen – a serial killing nurse who murdered possibly hundreds of patients. And – guess what? – Redmayne is neither a nurse nor a killer.

An actor is there to play a part that is cast by a director and created by a writer, end of. In other contexts that is well understood. Jim Parsons, a gay man, played the iconic – and straight – Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory. Neither Parsons, the director nor the screenwriters were PhD theoretical physicists, but who cares about that? The character they created brought physics to life – and that’s what mattered.

However, when it comes to trans characters, different rules apply – at least in Redmayne’s mind. It seems that trans people are seen as some sort of priestly class who cannot be played by mere muggles. Redmayne now says he won’t take parts that should go to trans actors. Perhaps he could refer such roles to Eddie Izzard? Izzard certainly ticks the trans box, but might be too busy in ‘boy mode’ playing any male lead that comes Izzard’s way? Trans actors would hardly want to be restricted to playing trans characters, so why should the reverse not be countenanced?

This logic makes no sense and it does not help trans people. Trans people are human beings just like everyone else – and trans characters should be played by the best actor available. In The Danish Girl that meant a man – Redmayne – played the lead role. Meanwhile Hayley Cropper, Coronation Street’s resident transsexual was played by a woman: Julie Hesmondhalgh. The sex of the actor mattered far less than their skill in helping to bring a character to life.

But this seems to pass Redmayne by. ‘The thing I find most complex is truth,’ he says, but then adds, ‘The film (The Danish Girl) feels like a fictionalised version. It doesn’t feel like Lili’s story.’ Why not? Does Eddie think that trans people have some special essence that sets us apart from the rest of humanity? If so, he should be reassured: it’s not true. We may have one of possibly several psychological conditions that sometimes require medical attention, but we are otherwise just like everyone else.

One thing is for sure, if my notability – or notoriety – ever meant that my character was cast in a movie, I would not want the role to be played by someone else who happened to be trans; I’d want the best man for the job. Redmayne needs to man up and accept that.

Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.

* This article was first published by The Spectator on 30 January 2023: Eddie Redmayne’s transgender confusion.

By Debbie Hayton

Physics teacher and trade unionist.

2 replies on “Eddie Redmayne’s transgender confusion”

I agree with you for the most part. Redmayne is probably worried about being victimized by the haters and shamers of cancel culture. “Cancel culture” essentially came into existence to promote and protect transgender ideas and interests. Redmayne doesn’t want to become the next J.K. Rowling — i.e., a famous person treated like shit because s/he doesn’t support trans ideas in every respect.

I don’t agree with you in other respects, however. American film-makers came in for criticism for always portraying American Indians with white actors, and that criticism was well deserved. There were plenty of Indian actors who could have filled those roles. But this is getting into race, and race is a more sensitive issue. Black people in the movies should be portrayed by blacks, Hispanics by Hispanics (am I using the right term?), Indians by Indians, Orientals by Orientals (I don’t see the word “Oriental” as a slur, an idea which is popular now among “woke” hypocrites), etc. But if your identity (gay, straight, trans, etc.) isn’t obvious in your appearance, then portraying people in those groups can be done by any good actor.


I watched that film, and enjoyed it. It gave me an insight into how people with identity problems might feel. However, I was a little appalled at his treatment of his wife when he mused about being married to a man after his ‘transformation’. It is the one, fundamental reserve – although I have others – about ‘trans’ that I have: they rarely seem to have the sensitivity and awareness that others might suffer as a result of their own wants and needs, yet no marriage/partnership can survive either without give and take on both sides, or a complete surrender by one half of the partnership. It seems to me that it is always women who are expected to do all the surrendering.

The same applies to the expectation that women will just roll over and give up all their hard-fought and hard-won rights to a category of men who claim to be ‘women’. It simply will not happen unless females are browbeaten and threatened into it. The resentment that would entail will almost certainly lead to mass rage and probably confrontation. In all my years, I have never seen women so angry. It is a visceral rage that centuries of grossly prejudiced treatment by males has brought to the surface, and it will destroy relations between the sexes forever – which is why I always advocate third spaces – with many men also being totally alienated by this ideology.

Eddie Redmayne appears to be saying that only ‘trans’ should play ‘trans’, and, although nonsense, reality does demand that, racially, we can no longer condone black facing or brown facing on our screens, rightly so, in my opinion. I view woman facing in the same light, and I would be very angry to see a ‘trans’ woman play a straight woman, and that is the side of the coin that no one appears to mention. Women don’t matter? Their feelings about this should be sublimated to men’s at all and any time?

By all means, have ‘trans’ people play ‘trans’ people, as it would be more authentic, but would ‘trans’ women, for example, be happy to play a straight man? Would a ‘trans’ man be happy to be a straight woman? That would be more difficult because most of them have rather stringy beards. We would eventually fall into unreality to the point of having to suspend all belief in what we are seeing – which is just what the ‘trans’ lobby wants, no? I would say it is probably too much to ask of an audience.

Orwell had it right: you would have to totally break and destroy the human spirit to force it to believe that they are not seeing what they are seeing. Again, it shows the cognitive disconnect between ‘trans’ and heteronormative. That would be a tragedy that the human race could never overcome. TWAW/TMAM is a concept that, if pushed too hard, will cause huge confrontation precisely because it requires a disconnect with reality so immense that it can cause literal madness. Neither evolution nor Mother Nature will allow it, and ‘trans’ people should settle now for what they have, perhaps with a few tweaks to make life easier for them, before it all blows up in their faces.

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