It took more than a decade for “The Danish Girl” to make it to the big screen, with screenwriter Lucinda Coxon at times doubtful the project would ever get made. “Everybody loved the script,” she divulges in our exclusive video interview (watch below), “but the subject matter was just considered controversial.” The feeling, according to Coxon, was that nobody wanted to see a film about Danish artist Einar Wegener, the first man to ever successfully undergo gender reassignment surgery, even if it was also “a great period romance.”
The film had many false starts, with several actors and directors at one time attached at various stages of development. “Obviously now, I’m able to feel very philosophical in retrospect,” admits Coxon. “I didn’t feel terribly philosophical, I can promise you, five years ago.”
It wasn’t until Tom Hooper came aboard that the film began to see the light of day. “He’s an extraordinary director, and he brings a great deal of industry clout with him.” Following his Oscar win for “The King’s Speech” (2010) and the box-office success of “Les Miserables” (2012), he “just had enough power to take ‘The Danish Girl’ on as a passion project, and get it into production with a studio behind it.”
Hooper brought in Eddie Redmayne, with whom he had worked on “Les Miserables,” to play Wegener who transforms into Lili Elbe. And rising Swedish star Alicia Vikander was cast as Gerda, his supportive wife who is there with him throughout.
In our interview, Coxon spoke extensively about her adaptation of David Ebershoff‘s 2000 novel of the same name.“This was slightly unusual as a process because there wasn’t just the novel. The novel is based on a true story, and I think one of the things that excited me was this extraordinary history that had gone unrecorded.”
As she explains, “my first instinct was to try and restore as much of the true story as I could, as much as we could find out, because researching that story wasn’t straight forward. It’s a story that got lost for all kinds of reasons, partly because women’s history and queer history tends to get swept away, but also because this is a story about a gender confirmation surgery that is performed in Dresden in 1930, and what happens in Dresden later in the ‘30s is pretty extraordinary.”
She discovered that Elbe’s medical records, held in the Women’s Hospital, had been wiped out during the Allied bombings of World War II. “In a sense, Lili’s story was obliterated along with all of that. So there was a job to be done with researching the true story.”
Coxon earned a BAFTA TV nomination for her work on the mini-series “The Crimson Petal and the White” (2011). Watch our full interview below for more about her work on “The Danish Girl” and then make your Oscar predictions for Best Adapted Screenplayusing our easy drag-and-drop menu.
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Photo Credit: Focus Features