Eddie Redmayne, who won the Academy Award for Best Actor last year for his portrayal of ALS-afflicted scientist Steven Hawking, is in Oscar contention again this year for playing Lili Elbe, one of the first people in history to receive sex reassignment surgery, in The Danish Girl.
The creatives behind The Danish Girl, including Redmayne, have faced criticism for casting a cisgender man (that is, a male-bodied person who identifies as a man) to play a trans woman. But Redmayne, for his part, educated himself in preparation for the role in order to show Elbe the proper respect. And it sounds like he went through some admirable growth in the process.
"I fell into all the clichés of ignorance," Redmayne admits in an interview with Details. "I didn't realize that gender and sexuality weren't related. I confused the terms transvestitism and transgender. But what's lovely is, the second you understand the difference, you see how gigantic it is and how important it is that we educate ourselves."
Redmayne interviewed trans women and read such books as Man Into Woman, a book about Elbe and her partner Gerda Wegener (portrayed in the movie by Alicia Vikander), and Conundrum, a memoir by trans author Jan Morris, which was recommended to him by director Lana Wachowski.
"Eddie's process is so compassionate, always striving to inhabit a character's vulnerability," Wachowski told Details. "He wanted to understand Lili in this way, and I believe he did."
The Danish Girl reaches theaters Nov. 27.