10 major Hollywood stars who played transgender people on screen

After Scarlett Johansson opted to drop out of a transgender on-screen role this month, it would appear the era of cisgender Hollywood stars playing trans characters on screen is drawing to a close.

Studios are now finally getting the message that it’s not OK to hire a big-name Hollywood man, stick them in a wig, and call it representation.

But just a few years ago it was still very much the norm for established film stars to play transgender on-screen and often rake in awards in return, while actual transgender stars struggled to get cast in, well, anything.

Here’s just some of the actors who played trans on-screen.

Jared Leto

Jared Leto

Leto’s played HIV-positive trans woman Rayon in 2013’s Dallas Buyers’ Club, a film based on real-life groups who desperately attempted to secure HIV-treating drugs during the AIDS crisis.

A famously method actor, Leto reached out to a number of transgender people in order to guide his performance – and lost a massive amount of weight for the film.

The actor was praised by cis critics for his “brave” performance, and won an Academy Award for the role – but neglected to thank the transgender community during his acceptance speech.

When challenged over his casting at one panel event, Leto got into a heated argument with one trans critic, claiming.

He claimed that if only trans people could play transgender roles, only cisgender people could play cisgender roles, and “people like the Rayons of the world would never have the opportunity to turn the tables and explore parts of that art”.

As far as we know, no transgender actor has ever been cast as a cisgender lead in a blockbuster.

Eddie Redmayne

Eddie Redmayne

Redmayne stepped into the shoes of Danish painter Lili Elbe – one of the earliest people to undergo gender surgery – for 2016’s The Danish Girl.

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