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'Lord Of The Rings' Star Sean Bean Sparks Debate After Defending Playing A Trans Character

'Lord Of The Rings' Star Sean Bean Sparks Debate After Defending Playing A Trans Character
Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

English actor Sean Bean sparked a debate online for defending his portrayal of a trans character in the 2012 drama series, Accused.

Sean Bean was criticized after defending his portrayal of a trans woman as the casting of cisgender heterosexual male actors in prominent LGBTQ+ roles—while actual LGBTQ+ performers struggle to find even minor roles—faces greater scrutiny. The entertainment cliché of hiring only cisgender, heterosexual men to play gay men or trans women who are then lauded for their "bravery" and given multiple industry awards—such as Tom Hanks, Sean Penn, Jared Leto and Eddie Redmayne—has been increasingly called out in recent years.

Bean, who trained at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and is known for The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and Sharpe received international acclaim for his performance in Accused as Simon–a bored English teacher with a female alter ego named Tracie.

“I come from a generation that started in repertory theatre, playing a different role each week," explained Bean in an interview with The Guardian. "The aim was to play as many parts as possible."

He added:

“Whereas there’s a tendency now to argue that characters can only be played by someone like them.”

His observation was a contrast to the empathetic statement made by actor Eddie Redmayne, who acknowledged his Academy Award-nominated portrayal of a trans woman in 2015's The Danish Girl was "problematic."

Redmayne added accepting the role was a "mistake."

Bean further weighed in on the casting debate with LGBTQ+ actors being typically passed over in favor of straight male actors, calling the argument "restrictive and counterproductive."

“We risk getting into a situation where drama is dictated more by which boxes are ticked than the story being told."

“I often think that, if I did ‘Tracie’s Story’ today, there’d be an uproar,' he said of his Emmy-winning performance in Accused, adding, "I have a feeling it would be questioned and wouldn’t even be made, but it’s one of the roles I’m proudest of."

"It seems such a shame if actors can’t play a range of parts.”

While preparing to play the trans character, Bean said he dressed as a woman in public.

"I prepared by walking round in high heels in the kitchen at home and one night I went out in the full gear and arm-in-arm with my middle daughter."

“I wanted to find out what it felt like, whether I’d be able to pull it off and have the bottle to function in that situation,” he said.

His statement divided social media users, with some lauding his performance as Tracie and agreeing with him about the casting choice being a controversial one today.

Others flat out criticized his stance on the debate.

The casting choices of LGBTQ+ roles were further under scrutiny earlier this month when Aaron Sorkin responded to the backlash of Spanish actor Javier Bardem playing Desi Arnaz–who was Cuban–in Being the Ricardos, a film about the rocky relationship between American TV icons Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

In his argument, the Oscar-winning filmmaker drew a comparison to casting choices with LGBTQ+ roles going to non LGBTQ+ actors.

“Nouns aren’t actable. Gay and straight aren’t actable. You can act being attracted to someone, but can’t act gay or straight," explained Sorkin in an interview.

"So this notion that only gay actors should play gay characters? That only a Cuban actor should play Desi? Honestly, I think it’s the mother of all empty gestures and a bad idea.”

Comedian and actor Billy Eichner immediately shut Sorkin down with a passionate tweet, saying:

“Completely ignorant of how Hollywood has treated its openly LGBTQ+ actors for a century."
"Talking about sh*t he doesn’t fully comprehend. Scared that Hollywood isn’t (entirely) ruled by straight men anymore. Go write yourself a 'walk and talk' back into the past. Merry Christmas!”