A new film from the Cities of Love franchise titled “Berlin, I Love You,” is receiving criticism for having cast Diego Luna (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), a cisgender man, in the role of a transgender woman. The film features ten separate stories taking place in the city of Berlin and has 11 directors with an ensemble cast that also features Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, and Mickey Rourke.
Causing the stir was a clip that made its debut on NextNowNext and featured a scene between Luna’s character and Actor Michelangelo Fortuzzi, who is portraying a bicurious teenager in the film. In the clip, which has since been taken down, Fortuzzi’s character states, “I don’t know if I prefer to kiss men or women, will you please kiss me? I want to know how it feels to kiss a man.”
Luna’s character then replies, “You know what baby? Right now you’re in front of a woman. It’s just not going to work.”
“But, you are a man,” says the teen as Luna’s character responds, “It’s a little more complicated than that.”
Causing the backlash is not only how the actor’s portrayal and the film’s dialog further stereotype transgender women as “men is dresses,” but how the decision by the filmmakers to cast yet another cisgender actor in a transgender role further enforces the negative stereotype. The movie industry continues to cast men as transgender women, having previously cast actors such as Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), and Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent) in such roles, but it has also cast cisgender women as cisgender men. This past July, actress Scarlett Johansson received backlash for accepting the role of a transgender man in the film “Rub and Tug,” which Johansson ended up turning down after realizing how her playing the role would have been harmful to the transgender community. After her departure, the film was shelved instead of casting a transgender actor to play the role.
After the news of Luna’s role broke, members of the transgender community voiced their displeasure on Twitter, but it was @timberwraith who best put things in perspective.
To date, no response has been received from Diego Luna regarding the backlash.
Watch the trailer for Berlin, I Love You below (Luna appears at 1:15):