What 'The Danish Girl' actor Eddie Redmayne learned from playing a transgender role

Redmayne portrays Lili Elbe in the new movie 'Danish.' 'The first time I walked on set [as Lili] I felt scrutinized,' the actor said. 'It was interesting because it was something that a lot of the [transgender] women I'd met had spoken about.'

Joel Ryan/Invision/AP
'The Danish Girl' stars Eddie Redmayne.

Eddie Redmayne said he finds the lack of progress on transgender rights in the past century "shocking" after playing 1920s transgender pioneer Lili Elbe in his new film "The Danish Girl."

"Some of the things that... Lili specifically has to go through of violence, discrimination, almost 100 years on from that story, those things haven't necessarily changed," Redmayne told Reuters.

"There is a huge amount of job discrimination and discrimination generally against trans people and a huge amount of violence particularly for trans women of color.

"And so it's kind of shocking that there hasn't been as much progress in that amount of time," he said in an interview about the film, which tells the story of one of the first known recipients of sex reassignment surgery, born as Einar Wegener in 1882.

Wegener, an artist, began living as a woman after his marriage and had the first of several gender-reassignment operations in 1930. She died in 1931 but left diaries and her life was fictionalized in the book "The Danish Girl."

Redmayne explained that he had met several transgender people to help him prepare for the role, but it made playing the part no less daunting once the cameras started rolling.

"The first time I walked on set (as Lili) I felt scrutinized, I felt the gaze of other people and I felt nervous... It was interesting because it was something that a lot of the (trans) women I'd met had spoken about...

"What I learned from this experience is that gender is fluid in the way that sexuality is fluid and we have bits of everything in us," Redmayne said.

Redmayne said he is taking winning the Oscar earlier this year for best actor for his portrayal of physicist Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything" in stride.

"I have been working quite intensively so it's been a frenzied, wonderful time and I haven't really had respite to get perspective on it," he said.

"I am just sort of putting one foot in front of the other and knowing that I am incredibly lucky and that it'll all come to a crushing end soon," he laughed. "So I am trying to just keep my head afloat, really."

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