Update, March 28, 9:25 ET: Guy Pearce has apologized for his remarks about trans actors. You can read his full comment here.
Our previous story:
Guy Pearce, who broke out as an actor playing a drag queen in 1994’s Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, says that non-trans actors should be free to play trans characters onscreen.
“A question — if the only people allowed to play trans characters r trans folk, then r we also suggesting the only people trans folk can play r trans characters? Surely that will limit ur career as an actor? Isn’t the point of an actor to be able play anyone outside ur own world?” he tweeted Monday.
When commenters noted that there are very few trans roles, and argued that the few trans roles should go to trans actors, Pearce said that was a different question than whether cis actors can play trans characters.
Guy Peace Elaborates on Trans Actors
“Ok, so if this debate is actually about Trans actors not getting the opportunities to work like other actors do then let’s be clear about that & state that precisely. That’s a very different point. Good to be exact, I say,” the Australian actor tweeted.
He added: “Also, why should one’s personal position be relevant when it comes to casting? That’s private. It’s our own business. And as we know it doesn’t truly confirm our ability to be convincing…..”
The Memento star added that in many cases, acting ability should trump identity, concluding: “I have to say in all my years of work most people I speak to don’t truly actually understand what acting entails. There r a lot of projections going on. There r also many people out there with incredible life experience who fall flat when camera is rolling. It’s an art form….”
It was unclear what prompted the actor, who is currently playing British-Soviet double agent Kim Philby in the new limited series A Spy Among Friends, to wade into one of the more contentious issues in acting today: Whether an actor can or should take on a role playing someone who is part of a marginalized community to which the performer does not belong.
Perhaps in part because of the online backlash when actors volunteer that they should be able to play anyone, regardless of their gender identity, few stars of Pearce’s name recognition have come forward to argue that they should be able to play trans characters.
In 2018, Scarlett Johansson dropped plans to play a transgender man in a film called Rub & Tug amid significant online criticism. The project is being reimagined by writer-producer Our Lady J, a veteran of Pose, which features many transgender actors in its cast, as well as transgender writers and producers.
More recently, Eddie Redmayne has said he regrets playing a transgender woman in The Danish Girl, for which he received an Oscar nomination.
Guy Pearce, 55, first gained international attention for his role in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, in which he and Hugo Weaving play drag queens and Terence Stamp plays the the third in their trio, a trans woman, as they travel across Australia in their tour bus, dubbed Priscilla, to perform a series of tour dates.
The film earned praise from LGBTQ audiences at the time of its release, in 1994, for its positive portrayals of LGBTQ characters, before there was a fairly mainstream debate about whether cis actors should play trans characters. Sympathetic portrayals of gay and trans characters were not common at the time.
Pearce said in a 2018 episode of The Graham Norton Show that his portrayal of a gay drag performer in the film won him support from some gay fans.
“We weren’t aware of it at the time, but even now I get people coming up to me saying, ‘That film helped me come out to my parents’,” Guy Pearce said.
Guy Pearce is perhaps best known for Curtis Hanson’s 1997 L.A. Confidential, in which he played one of the only incorruptible cops in 1950s Los Angeles. He earned further accolades for Christopher Nolan’s 2000 film Memento, in which he plays a man with little-to-no short-term memory, trying to solve a grim mystery.
In addition to starring with Damian Lewis in A Spy Among Friends, his recent roles have included a turn in the HBO hit Mare of Easttown, as a professor who tries to romance Kate Winslet’s detective character, Mare.
Main image: Guy Pearce as Kim Philby in A Spy Among Friends.