Tom Hooper‘s “The Danish Girl” had its world premiere at the Venice film festival on Saturday and rave reviews establish last year’s Best Actor champ Eddie Redmayne as a strong contender to become the sixth performer to win back-to-back Oscars. He plays artist Einar Wegener, one of the world’s first sex-change patients, who became Lili Elbe in the 1920s. Among the rest of the cast, Alicia Vikander is a stand-out as Wegener’s wife Gerda as is Ben Whishaw as a would-be suitor to Lili.
British playwright Lucinda Coxon (“Happy Now?”) adapted David Ebershoff’s 2000 novel of the same name. For her work bringing Michael Farber‘s sweeping period novel “The Crimson Petal and the White” to television, she earned both BAFTA and Royal Television Society nominations.
The lavish production design of “The Danish Girl” is by Eve Stewart, who reaped Oscar bids for two previous collaborations with Hooper (“Les Miserables,” “The King’s Speech”) and a third for “Topsy-Turvy” (1999). She won an Emmy in 2000 for her work on Hooper’s miniseries “Elizabeth I.”
Lenser Danny Cohen contended for an Oscar for “The King’s Speech.” Likewise, costumer Paco Delgado earned his only Oscar nomination for “Les Miserables.” And film editor Melanie Oliver earned one of her two Emmy bids for cutting “Elizabeth I.”
Hooper won an Oscar for helming the 2010 Best Picture champ “The King’s Speech” in 2010. And he directed Remayne in the 2012 movie musical “Les Miserables.” Will they both return to the Oscar podium for “The Danish Girl”?
Redmayne would be the first actor in more than two decades to win back-to-back Oscars. The last to accomplish that feat was Tom Hanks in 1993 (“Philadelphia”) and 1994 (“Forrest Gump”). He joined just four others in Oscar history to have ever pulled off that double play: Spencer Tracy, Luise Rainer, Katharine Hepburn and Jason Robards.
With “The Danish Girl,” Redmayne has a good shot at becoming the sixth member of that elite group. Playing such a physically and emotionally transformative role often resonates with voters. Linda Hunt won Best Supporting Actress as a man in “The Year of Living Dangerously” (1983). Hilary Swank won the first of her two Oscars laying a transgender man in “Boys Don’t Cry” (1999). And mosdt recently, Glenn Close earned an Oscar bid crossing the gender line as the title character in “Albert Nobbs.” (See more examples in our photo gallery below)
Redmayne, who won an Oscar on his first bid last year, sits in second place on our Oscar prediction chart for Best Actor, with the backing of four of our experts and two of our editors. In first place is five-time Oscar also-ran Leonardo DiCaprio for his performance in “The Revenant,” Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s first fllm since taking home three Oscars last year for writing, directing and producing Best Picture champ “Birdman.”
Critics singled out Redmayne in their rave reviews of this Focus Features release (see below), which will also screen at the Telluride and Toronto filmfests before opening on Nov. 27. After reading these excerpts, be sure to make your Oscar predictions for Best Actor. Don’t worry, you can keep changing them right up until nominations are announced on Jan. 14.
Peter Debruge (Variety) notes: “For an actor, there can be few more enticing, or challenging, roles than this, in which the nature of identity, performance and transformation are all wrapped up in the very fabric of the project itself, and Redmayne gives the greatest performance of his career so far, infinitely more intimate and far less technical than the already-stunning turn as Stephen Hawking that so recently won him the Oscar.”
David Rooney (The Hollywood Reporter) concludes: “Ultimately, the film’s chief strength is as a vehicle for Redmayne, following his ‘Theory of Everything’ Oscar win with another full-immersion physical and emotional transformation into a brave real-life figure.”
Jonathan Romney (The Guardian) observes, “Offering more light and shade, Redmayne is undeniably affecting – and sports an exquisite swan’s neck in those 1920s/30s frocks. But his coy grins, so effective in The Theory of Everything, are worked relentlessly here. However he does play intriguingly on the sense that, in both genders, his character is always performing, creating a persona – indeed, using gestures to be a figure in a painting.”
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Photo: Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl.” Credit: REX