Halle Berry said she has decided to pass on playing a transgender man in a new film after her discussion of the potential role sparked controversy.
The “X-Men” and “Monster’s Ball” star is gearing up for the release of “Bruised,” her directorial debut presently slated to hit theaters in September. Speaking to hairstylist Christin Brown on Instagram Live over the weekend, she mentioned her plans to follow up “Bruised” by portraying a transgender man in a forthcoming movie.
Berry didn’t specify the title of the film or name any of its creative team. Though she focused on the artistic challenges the project would present, she misgendered the role several times over the course of the interview.
“She’s a woman that transitioned into a man,” the Oscar winner said. “She’s a character in a project I love and I might be doing.”
“I want to experience that world, understand that world,” she added. “It’s really important to me to tell stories, and that’s a woman — that’s a female story. It changes to a man, but I want to understand the why and how of that. You know? I want to get into it.”
Criticism of Berry’s announcement ― and, specifically, her misgendering of the character ― was swift.
“Trans actors for trans roles,” one person wrote. “When cis women play trans men and cis men play trans women, it perpetuates harmful, invalidating stereotypes.” Added another, “Trans men aren’t women playing dress up, and this would do a lot more harm than good.”
By Monday evening, Berry decided to reverse course.
“Over the weekend I had the opportunity to discuss my consideration of an upcoming role as a transgender man, and I’d like to apologise for those remarks,” she wrote on Twitter. “I vow to be an ally in using my voice to promote better representation on-screen, both in front of and behind the camera.”
LGBTQ creatives applauded Berry’s decision.
“Thank you for hearing us and for taking the time to listen and understand our concerns,” tweeted “911: Lone Star” actor Brian Michael Smith, who is transgender. “Furthermore, I appreciate your vow to take action and use your platform to promote better representation and opportunities for marginalised artists on both sides of the lens.”
In spite of Hollywood’s proclaimed strides toward on-screen diversity, there have been a number of headline-making controversies over the casting of cisgender actors in transgender roles in recent years.
Matt Bomer’s take on a transgender sex worker in 2017’s “Anything” garnered mixed reviews and complaints from trans actors who said they’d auditioned for the part. The following year, Scarlett Johansson sparked outcry when she was cast as a trans crime boss in “Rub & Tug.” A week after her casting was announced, she apologised and exited the role.