VENICE • Eddie Redmayne said transgender people helped him prepare for his portrayal of transsexual pioneer Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl that opened last Saturday at the Venice Film Festival, even if no transgender person got the main role.
"Across the board, the generosity of people was amazing," he said, launching the film about Danish landscape painter Einar Wegener.
Wegener was born male in 1882 but began living as a woman after his marriage and had the first of several sex reassignment operations in 1930. She died in 1931 but left diaries and her life was fictionalised in the book The Danish Girl.
Director Tom Hooper, who made The King's Speech (2010), defended his choice of Redmayne to play Elbe.
"I think there's something in Eddie that's drawn to the feminine," he said, citing Redmayne's casting in a woman's role in a stage production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.
"I think also, to some extent, in our film, Lili is presenting as a man for the majority of the film, for about two-thirds of the movie, and her transition happens quite late, so I also had to consider that coming to the decision."
He said he had used transgender actors in the film, including Britain's Rebecca Root as a nurse, but said in general, transgender actors and actresses were not used enough in the film industry.
"There is a huge pool of talent in trans actors and the access to parts is limited and so I would champion any shift where the industry can move forward to embrace trans actors."
Redmayne said a Los Angeles couple (the wife stayed with her husband while he made the transition becoming a woman), Elbe's diaries and the book based on her life helped to form his portrayal.
"So it was... trying to take all of that information and see if I could find some of those aspects in me," said Redmayne, an Oscar Best Actor winner for playing physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything (2014).
"I don't know if I succeeded but what I learnt in that process was quite incredible."
The film also stars Alicia Vikander as Wegener's wife Gerda. It is one of 21 films in competition for the Lion d'Or top prize.
Not great reviews for Kristen's sci-fi film
Twilight's Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult of X-Men's fame hit the Venice Film Festival red carpet for their science-fiction film Equals which screened in competition last Saturday at the festival.
They play a couple in a post-apocalyptic world where emotion is looked upon as a disease.
Directed by Drake Doremus (2013's Breathe In, 2011's Like Crazy), the two are called upon mostly to express themselves with glances and hand gestures as they portray people who, if their budding affair is discovered, will be shipped to a place where suicide is encouraged or death is arranged.
Reviews were less than stellar. "Hoult and Stewart certainly give it their all, and both deliver sensitive, nuanced performances," The Guardian said.
"But Doremus never really manages to solve the problem (that) afflicts the first half of the film: with everything and everyone moving at half speed, there's an in-built dramatic inertness to proceedings that no amount of intense whispering and tremulous handholding can overcome."
The Hollywood Reporter said: "For high-concept melodrama that's low on complexity, this very solemn film takes itself way too seriously. But it's not entirely without interest, thanks to sleek visuals and decent chemistry between alluring leads Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart."