Elliot Page recalls fear of roles requiring feminine costumes: ‘I would want to kill myself’

Elliot Page turned down role due to a feminine costume. (Getty)

Trans actor Elliot Page has opened up about the torment he faced with his gender identity when it came to wearing women’s costumes in period dramas.

Since Pageboy was published on 6 June, he has earned much praise and sparked plenty of conversation for revealing the challenges he faced in Hollywood prior to coming out as a trans man in December 2020.

Many of Page’s revelations made headline news. Recently, he spoke candidly about experiences such as being threatened with rape by a Hollywood actor after he came out as gay, having sex “all the time” with Juno co-star Olivia Thirlby, a secret romance with fellow actor Kate Mara and getting shingles from anxiety on the set of Inception.

The 36-year-old actor has now also revealed his fraught relationship with being cast in feminine roles where he was forced to wear clothes that didn’t align with his gender identity.

In the memoir, he recalled one example from late 2007/early 2008 where he told his agents to turn down a “sought after” role which required him to wear women’s period-style clothing.

“I would imagine myself in a woman’s costume from the mid-19th century,” he wrote. “The dress, the shoes, the hair, flashed before my eyes. It was too much after having put on the mask for awards season. I understood that if I were to do it, I would want to kill myself.”

You may like to watch

Page is likely to be referring to the awards run for the hit coming-of-age comedy Juno, for which he garnered Oscar, Golden Globes and BAFTA nominations. There is some speculation that the “sought after” role could have been in Cary Joji Fukunaga’s 2011 adaptation of Jane Eyre which ended up starring Mia Wasikowska.

For Page, playing highly feminine characters on the big screen felt out of the question when the role he “played in [his] personal life was suffocating [him] already.”

This feeling followed him throughout his career. He has talked about “feeling out of place” in a cast “full of cis men”, during the filming of Inception, saying: “I pushed myself to dispel the truth for fear of banishment, but I was despondent, trapped in a dismal disguise. An empty, aimless shell.

“It wasn’t easy to explain to my reps that I couldn’t take on a role because of clothing. A face would scrunch up and tilt sideways, ‘But you’re an actor?’ Wardrobe fittings for films ripped at my insides, talons gashing my organs.

“I cringed at the way people lit up when seeing me in feminine clothing, as if I had accomplished a miraculous feat. People would go, ‘Well, you’re an actor. Just put on the f–king clothes.’ But, needless to say, it was so much more than that.” 

Over the past year, Page has embraced his identity as a trans man. From updating his passport photo to celebrating “joy” at receiving gender-affirming healthcare with a shirtless selfie, every milestone shared on social media has been met with a wave of love and support from fans.

And, unlike in the past, Page is fully incorporating his transness into his fictional roles. In the third season of popular Netflix fantasy series The Umbrella Academy, Page’s character comes out as a trans man and changes their name to Viktor Hargreeves.

Discussing the character’s transition last year, Page told the host on Late Night with Seth Meyers: “What I want to focus on right now, and has been so extraordinary, is the degree of joy that I feel, the degree of presence I feel.

“I feel a way that I really never thought possible. That’s what I’m focusing on and embracing the most.”

Pageboy is available in bookstores now.