The Danish Girl
by director Tom Hooper
I fell in love with The Danish Girl seven years ago when I read Lucinda Coxon's extraordinary script. I was moved to tears by this remarkable story of love and loss, identity and courage. In a way it's been a seven year journey to honour the emotion from this first reading. My hope is to move you the audience as I was moved.
I didn't know about the pioneering Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener until I read the script. When I began to research I was struck by how little information there was about them—and I have since discovered that even this information had inaccuracies. It's as if history has marginalised one of the great stories, and I felt impelled to do what I could to put that right. I had no idea that the first gender confirmation surgeries were as early as 1930/31. Imagine Lili's bravery in going through that medical transition before antibiotics, before the invention of penicillin, where the surgeon had never done the operations before. Even more, imagine the bravery of transitioning before there was any acceptance in the culture of what Lili was saying about herself.
But what makes the story even more exceptional is the love between Lili and Gerda. This is a portrait of a marriage going through profound change, but that change is navigated with such kindness, sensitivity, compassion and unconditional love.
And it's the story of two artists, where as you will see art makes possible a space where Lili can be truly seen.
I was very happy to be reunited with Eddie Redmayne on The Danish Girl. We first worked together on Elizabeth I with Helen Mirren, when Eddie was a brilliantly gifted 23-year-old actor starting out, then on Les Misérables, where his performance of “Empty Chairs, Empty Tables” remains one of my personal highlights in the film.
Alicia Vikander has been a thrilling discovery. It was no small challenge finding the actress to go one on one with the now Academy Award winner Eddie in these great emotional scenes. Alicia has so much heart and generosity, she was perfect for Gerda.
I have been a fan of Matthias Schoenaerts ever since Rust and Bone and was delighted when he brought his quiet strength to join the film playing the role of Hans. Ben Whishaw is one of the greatest young English actors working today and together with Sebastian Koch (The Lives of Others) and the luminous Amber Heard I felt very lucky to have such an ensemble gathered together for me by casting director Nina Gold.
On The Danish Girl I have been reunited with my team from The King's Speech of cinematographer Danny Cohen, production designer Eve Stewart and the Academy Award-winning composer Alexandre Desplat. From Les Mis I have re-teamed with brilliant film editor Melanie Oliver and costume designer Paco Delgado.
I fell in love with this film because it speaks to such a universal theme. We all have blocks between us and the best version of ourselves or the true version of ourselves—whether it's shyness, insecurity, anxiety, addiction, depression, stammering like in The King's Speech. But to not identify with the gender you were assigned at birth is surely the most profound of blocks, the potential cause of such distress. In this film we see in the love between Lili and Gerda that the way out of this begins when you are truly loved—for to be truly loved, to be truly seen, opens up a space where amazing transformation is possible.