Guy Pearce Issues Apology Letter for Tweet Asking if it Limits Trans Actors’ Careers to Only Play Trans Characters 

‘I see that raising the question of gender identity within the casting process on … Twitter was not a good idea’

Australian actor Guy Pearce posted a considerable letter on Twitter apologizing for a tweet questioning if transgender actors are inhibited by only playing transgender characters. 

The Emmy Award-winning star of Memento and L.A. Confidential prefaced his “fuller apology and explanation” with the following comment: “I posted a tweet yesterday that I shouldn’t have, which to prevent upsetting anyone else I have now deleted,” Pearce wrote. 

In the now-deleted March 27 tweet, the actor wrote: 

“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?”

In response to a number of users who suggested the limited number of transgender roles should be reserved for transgender actors, Pearce wrote, “That’s a very different point.” 

“Also, why should one’s personal position be relevant when it comes to casting?” he asked. “That’s private. It’s our own business. And as we know it doesn’t truly confirm our ability to be convincing.”

The actor continued: “I have to say in all my years of work, most people I speak to don’t truly actually understand what acting entails. There are 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.”

In his apology letter, Pearce said “raising the question of gender identity within the casting process on a platform like Twitter was not a good idea.” He also said that the question itself was “insensitive.”  

“For that, I apologize, enormously,” he wrote. “I acknowledge it has only stirred up and inflamed attitudes and made us all dig our heels in. I take responsibility for that and again, apologies for starting a fire.” 

He went on to say that the subject is complex and should be discussed “face to face.” He also said that members of his family have been subjected to “pernicious prejudice.”  

However, Pearce maintained that his initial point involved “defending the definition of acting and nothing more.”

“I don’t believe artists should have to announce their personal identity, sexual preference, political stance, disability, religious beliefs etc to attain work,” he wrote. “I believe that to suggest ‘acting’ can only come from our own lived experience annihilates our imagination. I wouldn’t want that restriction placed on a minority actor or any actor for that matter, myself included.” 

He added: “if I am going to play miles outside myself, it better be good. And on that metric I have always been willing to be judged, as I would hope the actor with lived experience is.” 

Pearce concluded by saying “the artistic community must discuss and develop this within itself, yes, even if that involves a little shouting. God forbid politicians of press barons tell us what is acceptable.” 

The letter — which has thus far received nearly 3 million views — was met with support and criticism from users.

“Have to say well done,” said one person. “You saw the issue of creating more problems calling out a marginalised community and listened to those saying it was harmful. I’m glad to see there are people who have ability to self reflect and own their mistakes. Thank you.”

“So should Dustin Hoffman not have played Raymond Babbitt in ‘Rain Man’? Nor, Tom Hanks in ‘Philadelphia’?” another user replied. “…Guy Pearce shouldn’t cower to film elites and cancel culture assassins.” 

Another person added: “Well at least now you see how this thing works. No questions allowed, especially not reasonable ones. Lie prostrate in the street and beg forgiveness – or else! And even if you apologise it won’t be quite enough. All very normal and not at all totalitarian.”

The issue of an actor’s identity aligning with the roles in which he is cast appears to resonate personally with Pearce. 

Aside from portraying Andy Warhol in 2006’s Factory Girl, Pearce played a drag queen in 1994’s The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert — a film that has become somewhat of a cult classic within the LGBT community. 

During a Dec. 31, 2018 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Pearce remarked, “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.’”

The actor claimed in his letter that the legacy of that performance prompted him to raise the question regarding transgender actors and their roles in the first place. 

“For 30 years now I’ve had many people ask me since doing Priscilla ‘Don’t you think gay people should’ve played those roles?’ And now many similar discussions are occurring about trans actors and trans roles,” he wrote. “It has led me to reflect even more about acting as an art form and it’s [sic] place in the world.” 

The view that certain roles should be cast with actors particularly suited for those roles has gained more attention over the past few years. 

In 2022, Bros actor Guy Branum criticized the casting of Brendan Fraser in The Whale, a performance for which Fraser won the Academy Award for Best Actor. 

“I … have real problems with the fact that they cast a straight actor who is not very fat, and [who] used prosthetics to represent fatness, in the film,” Branum said. “I think it allows people to talk about that character as an object in a way that wouldn’t be possible if it were an actual fat person who you had to look in the eyes.”

He added: “We all want Brendan Fraser to have a great comeback. We all want this moment for him. But we also need to think about how much we are representing queer life and fat life through straight actors or prosthetics.”

In a 2021 interview with The Sunday Times, actor Eddie Redmayne said he should not have taken on the role of transgender painter Lili Elbe in 2015’s The Danish Girl — a performance which nabbed him a Best Actor Oscar. 

“No, I wouldn’t take it on now,” he said, per IndieWire. “I made that film with the best intentions, but I think it was a mistake…The bigger discussion about the frustrations around casting is because many people don’t have a chair at the table. There must be a leveling, otherwise we are going to carry on having these debates.”

In 2018, Scarlett Johansson stepped down from her role as a transgender man in the film Rub & Tug. 

“In light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting as Dante Tex Gill, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my participation in the project,” she said in a statement to Out. “Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive.”

She added: “While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film.” 

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