Hilary Swank Says Actors Shouldn’t Be “Pigeonholed” Because of Gender

The “Boys Don’t Cry” star recalls LGBTQ people being "grateful" she played trans man Brandon Teena.

Hilary Swank is the latest celebrity to weigh in on the recent controversial casting of Scarlett Johansson as a transgender man, Dante “Tex” Gill, in the film Rub & Tug

Swank won her first Oscar for her playing murdered trans man Brandon Teena in the 1999 biopic Boys Don’t Cry. Afterward, she became an advocate for the LGBTQ community.

The 44-year-old Trust star tells The Guardian there are people “who have said I shouldn’t have done Boys Don’t Cry.”

“At the time,” however, she recalls, “the whole community was grateful that I did it because they said, had it been someone who was from this experience, people would have said: ‘Oh, you’re just telling your personal story.’”

Swank addresses arguments that movies need big names to succeed and that there aren’t enough A-list trans actors. “What’s hard is that not everyone is given an opportunity, and that’s where I think the struggle is,” she says. “Nobody knew who I was when I did Boys Don’t Cry. I was a newcomer—and the movie did well.”

Boys Don't Cry/Fox Searchlight

“The important thing to remember is people are wanting to be seen for who they are,” she continues. “And people are fighting for their space in the world. That I understand. But I do think it can be a slippery slope, because I don’t think anyone should be pigeonholed. And I do think that all genders should have an opportunity to be an actor and tell their stories. And I think that all genders should have the opportunity to audition for all types of roles.”

“I was honored to be a part of the beginning of an important conversation. The community means a great deal to me.”

Glenn Close, Oscar-nominated for her trans role in the 2011 film Albert Nobbs, recently commented that filmmakers “should have the opportunity to cast the best person,” adding, “I think personally that anyone should be able to play anyone.”

Johansson ultimately withdrew from the Rub & Tug role amid much criticism from LGBTQ actors and activists.

“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,” Johansson said in a statement. “I believe that all artists should be considered equally and fairly.”

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