Eddie Redmayne tells Details magazine, "I fell into all the clich s of ignorance," while becoming The Danish Girl

By Michael Miller
Updated November 24, 2015 12:40 PM
Courtesy Working Title

For Eddie Redmayne, portraying a woman in The Danish Girl meant transforming more than just his outward appearance.

“I fell into all the clich s of ignorance,” Redmayne confesses in an interview with Details magazine. “I didn’t realize that gender and sexuality weren’t related.”

In addition, the Les Mis rables actor admits he even “confused the terms transvestitism and transgender” when he first signed on to play Lili Elbe, believed to be the first person to undergo a sex change in the 1930s.

But Redmayne recognizes that if he, a graduate of Britain’s prestigious Eton College (where Prince William was a classmate) and later Cambridge, can mixup those terms, others might be confused as well.

“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,” he says.

Redmayne ultimately spent three years preparing for the role, conducting hours of interviews with members of the trans community, and studying Man Into Woman, the seminal account of Elbe’s life first published in 1933.

He also received some advice from Lana Wachowski, who directed him in Jupiter Ascending. Wachoski, who announced her transition from male to female in 2012, encourage the actor to read trans author Jan Morris’ celebrated 1974 memoir, Conundrum.

“I am always nervous about LGBT stories’ being portrayed as inherently tragic, that our ‘otherness’ is somehow a curse, whereas many of us experience it as one of life’s great blessings,” says Wachowski.

“I told Eddie that Lili and Gerda made my existence possible. Without the imagination and courage of these two women, LGBT history might have evolved from a much later starting point. And Eddie’s process is so compassionate, always striving to inhabit a character’s vulnerability. He wanted to understand Lili in this way, and I believe he did.”

Perhaps the best testament to his success was noticing the reactions of his coworkers. “Just walking onto a set filled with men, watching the difference in how you’re treated, or the scrutiny … the gaze was overwhelming,” he says. “A lot of the women I worked with said, ‘Yeah … welcome to our world.’ “