British actor Eddie Redmayne floored critics and audiences last year with his astonishing performance as ALS-stricken physicist extraordinaire Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Unsurprisingly, the role earned Redmayne Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG awards for Best Actor. Now in The Danish Girl, Redmayne takes us on another transformative journey in which he plays Danish painter, Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe, who in the 1930s underwent one of the earliest documented cases of gender reassignment surgery. Based on a true story, Redmayne’s heartbreaking performance has placed him once again in serious contention for a slew of Best Actor awards this season.
“When I read the script I found it to be a love story, a passionate and incredibly unique love story but also a story of authenticity,” he says. “And when I started prepping, which is pretty much when Tom (Hooper) offered it to me, I started educating myself. What I learned from the many people from the trans community that I met, was about bravery and courage and what it takes to be yourself.”
It was his revelatory performance as Marius in 2012’s Les Miserables that first drew serious attention to Redmayne in Hollywood. In 2010, he earned the most prestigious theatre accolade on both sides of the pond, a British Olivier and a U.S. Tony Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Red (as a fictional assistant to famed artist Mark Rothko). Without the benefit of any conventional training, Redmayne has proven that talent can be innate as well as learned on the job.
In 2011, he won Best Shakespearean Performance at the London Critics Circle Theatre Awards for his Richard II performance at the Donmar Warehouse. The following year, he earned a BAFTA Rising Star award nomination for My Week with Marilyn in which he played aspiring filmmaker Colin Clark who fell helplessly for Monroe’s considerable charms.
A former Burberry model who has fronted two campaigns, Redmayne made Vanity Fair’s 2012 International Best Dressed List, and has been named Best Dressed Male for three consecutive years by the Red Carpet Fashion Awards. He also nabbed several prestigious nominations for Les Miserables including a Screen Actors Guild nod for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture and a win for Best Ensemble cast from the National Board of Review.
A veteran of British television, Redmayne has appeared in a variety of projects including the 2008 BBC miniseries adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and in 2010, the Starz miniseries, The Pillars of the Earth. He also appeared in the lead role of Stephen Wraysford in the BBC’s Birdsong (2012), based on Sebastian Faulks’ acclaimed novel set against the backdrop of World War I. Other roles include his portrayal as the son of Matt Damon’s character in The Good Shepherd (2006) directed by Robert de Niro, as well as the independent drama, The Yellow Handkerchief (2008). He also appeared in The Other Boleyn Girl (2008), penned by Peter Morgan, which starred Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman and Eric Bana. Most recently, he starred in Jupiter Ascending (2015).
Each of these diverse characterizations saw Redmayne inhabiting his roles with a vivid authenticity rarely seen among his contemporaries.
Born and raised in London, Eddie is one of five children and the only member of his family to pursue a career in acting. His parents encouraged him to take drama classes from a young age and he was educated at Eton College before attending Cambridge, where he studied History of Art. In a little over eight years, Redmayne has become one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors. Now with the success of The Theory of Everything and The Danish Girl, the sky is the limit where his career is concerned.
“I started in theater, and then I was lucky enough that Robert De Niro gave me my first film job in The Good Shepherd as the son of Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie. I think I only got the part because I have big lips! So I have been incredibly lucky to have worked with seriously brilliant actors, especially given that I didn’t train as an actor.”
“For me it’s through osmosis – watching how people work, how they behave, and the grace with which they behave whilst also being true to themselves and good at what they do. It may look as though this has happened very quickly but for me my career feels like a very continuous gradation of work.