Guy Pearce sparks furious backlash after ‘crass’ comments about trans actors

Actor Guy Pearce on stage

Actor Guy Pearce has issued a lengthy apology after receiving backlash for “crassly” suggesting trans people shouldn’t play straight characters.

In a since-deleted tweet posted on Monday (27 March), Pearce, who starred in films such as Memento and LA Confidential, seemed to insinuate that trans people can’t play straight roles.

He wrote: “A question – if the only people allowed to play trans characters are trans folk, then are we also suggesting the only people trans folk can play are trans characters?

“Surely that will limit your career as an actor? Isn’t the point of an actor to be able to play anyone outside your own world?”

Twitter users were quick to censure Pearce’s tweet, with many taking to the comments section to inform him that there are very few trans roles in the film industry.

Pearce responded to the comments and said: “OK, so if this debate is actually about trans actors not getting the opportunities to work like other actors, do then let’s be clear about that and state that precisely.

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“That’s a very different point. Good to be exact,” the Independent reported him as saying.

The 55-year-old star, who played a drag queen in 1994’s The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, posted an apology for tweeting about the ongoing and contentious debate on Tuesday (28 March).

He captioned the lengthy apology: “I posted a tweet yesterday that I shouldn’t have, which to prevent upsetting anyone else I have now deleted. A fuller apology and explanation of the point I was raising is attached. xx Guy.” 

Guy Pearce tweeting about trans issues was a bad call

In the apology, Guy Pearce noted that his question of “gender identity within the casting process” was a bad idea to tweet about.

He went on to note that the subject “needs to be discussed face-to-face” over a “good amount of time” in order for all to be heard and understood, adding that he realised his post was “insensitive”. 

“The point I wanted to raise was one about defending the definition of action and nothing more. Throwing the subject on to one minority group in particular was unnecessary, especially from a man like me, with a ‘full house’ of privilege. 

“I’m in no position to complain about fairness, at least not on my own behalf.” 

Referring to his break out role in Priscilla, Pearce said he has had people ask him: “don’t you think gay people should’ve played those roles?”, with similar questions arising now about trans actors and trans roles. 

‘Minor communities are under-represented on screen’

“It has led me to reflect even more about acting as an art form and its play in the world. A great many minor communities are under-represented on screen and so too are actors from those communities,” the star continued. 

Pearce, who played gay rights activist Cleve Jones in Dustin Lance Black’s mini-series, When We Rise, in 2017, said he doesn’t believe artists should have to announce their identities, and that to suggest acting can only come from own lived experience “annihilates our imagination”. 

He concluded by apologising again for “crassly focusing on just one already-harassed minority”.

The post has received hundreds of retweets and thousands of likes, with comments praising him for his comprehensive apology. 

Trans broadcaster India Willoughby commented: “Nice one, Guy – that seems v fair to me.” 

Other comments described the apology as great, authentic and thorough. 

The debate over cisgender actors playing trans roles is often brought up by stars who receive criticism for securing roles outside of how they identify. 

In January, Eddie Redmayne was criticised for his casting as a Danish painter who underwent one of the world’s first documented gender-affirmation surgeries, in 2015’s The Danish Girl – for which he received an Oscar nomination.

Redmayne revealed that he regrets taking on the role and that he took part in a workshop with trans actors, whom he said “quite rightly” interrogated him about the film.

Similarly, the director of Academy-Award-winning The Whale, Darren Aronofsky, was forced to respond to widespread criticism of Brendan Fraser being cast as an obese gay man.

In an interview with Variety, Aronofsky claimed that he, and casting directors, chose The Mummy star, who picked up the best actor award at the Oscars earlier this month, because he “just needed the right actor for the role”.