Eddie Redmayne won critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination for his performance as painter Lili Elbe, one of the first recipients of gender reassignment surgery, in 2015’s The Danish Girl. But the cisgender, straight actor’s casting as a trans woman has also sparked criticism, and in a new interview with the Sunday Times, he says he wouldn’t take the role if offered it today.
“No, I wouldn’t take it on now,” the British star told the U.K. publication. “I made that film with the best intentions, but I think it was a mistake.”
When it’s noted that Redmayne’s then-recent Oscar win — he took home Best Actor after playing Stephen Hawking in 2014’s The Theory of Everything — likely helped the film’s script at last get made after years of stagnancy, he responded with a call for a “leveling” so that more diverse voices can be represented and have the power to tell their stories.
“The bigger discussion about the frustrations around casting is because many people don’t have a chair at the table,” Redmayne said. “There must be a leveling, otherwise we are going to carry on having these debates.”
Still, he opens audiences keep an open mind when it comes to his next role, that of the flamboyant Emcee in a new London production of Cabaret. The role has frequently — though not always — been played by actors who identify as LGBTQ, including Alan Cumming and Joel Grey, who won an Oscar for his performance in the 1972 film adaptation, released more than 40 years before he spoke publicly about his sexuality.
“Of all the characters I’ve ever read, this one defies pigeonholing,” Redmayne says of taking on the role. “I would ask people to come and see it before casting judgment.”