Premiering on May 11th, the highly criticized movie features Matt Bomer, a cisgender male actor, as a transgender female sex worker.
Produced by Mark Ruffalo and directed by Tim McNeil, “Anything” casts Bomer as Freda Von Rhenburg, a transgender woman who befriends a lonely widower named Early Landry (John Carroll Lynch). It is based on a 2007 play written by McNeil.
Since it was first announced in 2016, the movie has been the subject of controversy as it casts yet another cisgender male actor in the role of a transgender woman. Many people in the transgender community say the choice to cast a cisgender male actor in the role reinforces a hurtful stereotype that says transgender women are really men.
Most vocal about the film have been transgender actresses Jamie Clayton (Sense8) and Jen Richards (Nashville). Richards, who had auditioned for the role that was eventually given to Bomer, has said that the casting choice is dangerous for the transgender community while also asking Ruffalo and Bomer not to release the film. “Dear @MarkRuffalo & @MattBomer: if you release this movie, it will directly lead to violence against already at risk trans women,” Richards said via Twitter.
Richards has also been vocal about the fact that many transgender actresses do not get cast in transgender roles because they do not look “trans enough,” meaning that they don’t fit the societal stereotype of what a transgender person should look like. She was also told that the role of Freda was precast with an actor whom the producers of the film already had in mind, which Ruffalo has previously confirmed.
Ruffalo had responded to criticisms from the transgender community, however he claimed that the film had already been shot with Bomer playing the controversial role, and that he “pored his heart” into the performance. “To the Trans community. I hear you. It's wrenching to you see you in this pain. I am glad we are having this conversation. It's time,” Ruffalo responded via Twitter.
Also defending the film was Associate Producer Kylene K. Steele, who is also a transgender woman and helped to guide the movie’s production. “Matt did an amazing job, and he’s a phenomenal actor. It was amazing what he did, I was blown away by his performance,” Steele told IndieWire. “Myself, I think the part should go to the actor. I think that trans [women] should play women. You shouldn’t be judged by who the person’s gender is, if they can pretend and be the person that’s fit for the role, then that’s the way it should be. You don’t necessarily have to be trans to play a trans character.”
Cisgender male actors were also cast as transgender women in recent notable films such as Jared Leto as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club (2013) and Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl (2015).
Watch the trailer for “Anything” below: