“I don’t think I’ve ever put so much thought into gender before,” admits Alicia Vikander during our recent webcam chat (watch below) about playing the wife of a transitioning transgender woman in “The Danish Girl.” “It’s been extremely educational. The spectrum of male and female, and what’s what, feels much more fluid nowadays. I have a hard time picking where on that line I’m at.”
Vikander portrays Gerda, an artist whose husband Einar (Eddie Redmayne) begins to dress as a woman, but then gradually reveals that he is a woman deep down and starts to live as Lili. But as much as the film is about Lili’s transition from male to female, it’s also about Gerda’s complex experience of loving someone who undergoes such a profound change.
“It involved a lot of preparation to be able to do this role,” Vikander explains. She and Redmayne met transgender people, their friends and their families, and “every single story is very different.” But there was a common thread among them: “One interesting thing that most of the people I met wanted to tell me was that … they sometimes felt that people around them didn’t know they were transitioning too because they had to find new ground in the relationship that they had.”
She has been the subject of much Oscar-buzz for her “Danish Girl” performance, which closes a breakthrough year that also included roles in “The Man from UNCLE,” “Burnt” and the acclaimed sci-fi indie “Ex Machina.” But even her awards candidacy has become complicated. Though she has been campaigned as a supporting actress, the Golden Globes recently ruled Gerda a leading role.
“It’s awards season. Me coming from Sweden, I really didn’t know that it was a season just two years ago, so it’s been quite a whirlwind,” she says of the entire experience, but when it comes to awards, no matter which category she ends up in, “I’m trying to focus on my work and be extremely happy about everything.”
Though Vikander is now becoming widely known, this isn’t actually her first experience of the awards hoopla in Hollywood. She starred in the 2012 Danish film “A Royal Affair,” which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes and Oscars. She remembers, “[Director Nikolaj Arcel and I] found ourselves at the Golden Globes, and were clutching each other’s hands, screaming and pointing at all these people we had seen up on the screen. It was quite unbelievable. We both took mental photos of everything because we thought, ‘Oh my god … this is what we’re going to tell our grandkids.”
Vikander may have more stories to tell by the end of the season.
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“The Danish Girl” Photo Credit: Focus Features