In The Danish Girl, a drama based on the life of transgender woman Lili Elbe, Amber Heard plays the role of Ulla.
In the book on which the film is based, the character is a heavy-set opera singer Anna Fonsmark.
When discussing her role in the film earlier this month, Amber had this to say: “[Director] Tom [Hooper] asked me, when I met with him about this movie, he asked if I could sing and I said, ‘Mm, I don’t think so. Yeah, no,’. He said, ‘She’s an opera singer, but we were thinking about maybe doing something else with her.’ I said, ‘I can’t sing opera, that’s for sure!’ And he said, ‘No, that’s OK, that’s OK. It’s fine—we’re just going to make her a ballet dancer. We were thinking about that anyway.’”
Amber’s character plays an integral role in the film as Ulla, as she is friend to Gerda and her husband Einar, who eventually transitions to Lili. Ulla serves as a catalyst for Einar, as she cancels a portrait session with Gerda and Einar takes her place. It is then, wearing stockings and slippers, that Einar first awakens.
When discussing how Ulla immediately accepts and embraces Lili, Amber said: “I loved being liberated from the narrow confines of the cultural context, the prejudice. Being able to transcend the expected prejudice and see somebody—your friend, for instance—for the person, the human being that they are, and not being limited—that’s always a good thing, when you’re looking at a character.”
“If they’re not limited, you have a lot more freedom. And in this case Ulla is all freedom. She’s all spirit. And what she care about is the human, not the superficial. And also she’s a progressive person who might seem—she was certainly ahead of her time then, but she’s—we take for granted now how interesting that friendship must have been and how special of a human being she must have been to be able to do that.”
“I like that she was a representative of that because it was a very special and unique time in our history where all of these fantastic creative forces coalesced into one genesis of what would later become an incredibly rich and giving movement in art and creativity and culture of fashion, movies, film,” Amber said. “And we got to have so much fun being these kind of people; creative people.”
As most of you will know, Amber has long since been a voice for both equality and LGBT rights with her participation in the Self-Evident Truths campaign. She also displays this in interviews when asked about her sexual identity, as she has dated both men and women.
“The fact it is coming out is indicative of—or is proof, rather—of our culture being ready for this conversation and us being, as a society, being interested in these stories, interested in asking these questions, interested in redefining some previously held notions and long-standing standards.”
“We’re, as a society, clearly ready to talk about it and we’re interested in it. And I think it’s about time because it’s not an accident this story took place over 100 years ago; it’s not an accident that most people have never heard about Lili, who is this incredibly, extraordinary pioneer. And yet we haven’t heard about [her]. There’s reasons for that, and this largely marginalized and forgotten or suppressed community is finally coming to light. We’re finally ready to shine light on this and it’s long time coming.”
“I think it’s getting harder and harder to hate. You always want to be on the right side of history. “And also history—look at what history does to absolve people that choose to stand up for the dignity of the human spirit and human life. It’s not like history looks back on those people in an unfair or negative way the way it does for, say, people who stand up for bigotry or hatred. You don’t have to look back far in history to see that.”
Amber also touched on the fact that in her career, she has mostly worked with male directors and how she would love to see more female directors.
“We’re way behind. Way behind in this supposedly progressive or possibly progressive medium. The system is so broken in regards to this issue that it takes not just actresses and actors noticing it, it takes more than audiences [saying] ‘Hey, I actually will show up to go see a movie led by a female cast or that’s focused on the female life or elements of a female perspective.’”
“It takes way more than that. It also takes the studio system to be tired of this old played out formulaic approach to making movies. They’ve gotta be interested in changing. The financiers—the system of financing movies has to change. It’s all across the board broken. But we’re just antiquated and need to catch up. I think it’s slowly changing.”