'Danish Girl' Helmer Tom Hooper: "Great Actors Have a Director's Mind"

"A lot of [Eddie Redmayne's performance] was this idea that if you are a woman, and your male self is a mask, playing a man would feel like a kind of suit of armor he was putting on to suppress his true femininity."

The Danish Girl actor, Eddie Redmayne, "prepared full time for a year for that role, which is extraordinary," says the film's director, Tom Hooper, during The Hollywood Reporter's Director Roundtable.

"He did a lot of outreach to members of the transgender community and met trans women and men and was very inspired by their stories," Hooper says. Through Redmayne's research, they worked to find the essence of the character, Lily, in the performance, noting "it was this idea that if you are a woman, and your male self is a mask, playing a man would feel like a kind of suit of armor he was putting on to suppress his true femininity and then that could slowly, through the course of the movie, be broken down and we'd see the real self."

Hooper discusses the struggles of being director saying, "Sometimes your most urgent battles are actually against lack of time, lack of money, lack of resources, and yet all of us find ways to render this fight invisible, so when you see the final film, you're not aware of what the directors are really facing."

The Oscar-winning director says he learned his biggest lesson from actress Helen Mirren when he directed her on a episode of Prime Suspect for TV. He directed her to walk across the screen, but she decided to smoke by the window, saying he never again imposed staging upon an actor, because, "The really great actors have a director's mind as well as an actor's mind."

Fellow roundtable participant Ridley Scott calls Hooper's films high-brow, but Hooper insists he makes "films for audiences. I really don't make them for myself because by the time you've finished a film, you've watched it so many hundreds of times. By that point, you're doing anything you can to try to re-experience your film with the kind of freshness of a new viewer."

The full Director Roundtable will air on Close Up With The Hollywood Reporter on Sunday, Jan 3, at 11 a.m. ET on Sundance TV.

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