Guy Pearce issues apology after wading in on debate over cisgender actors playing trans roles

Guy Pearce issued an apology statement on Twitter after appearing to suggest that non-trans actors should be able to play trans characters.

Pearce, whose breakout role came playing a drag queen in 1994’s The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, tweeted on Monday (27 March): “A question – if the only people allowed to play trans characters r trans folk, then r we also suggesting the only people trans folk can play r trans characters?

“Surely that will limit ur career as an actor? Isn’t the point of an actor to be able play anyone outside ur own world?”

When people in his replies pointed out that there were few trans roles available and that those out there should go to trans people, Pearce responded (via MovieMaker): “Ok, so if this debate is actually about Trans actors not getting the opportunities to work like other actors do then let’s be clear about that & state that precisely. That’s a very different point. Good to be exact, I say.”

In his statement issued Tuesday, Pearce said he has deleted the offending tweets.

“I see that raising the question of gender identity within the casting process on a platform like Twitter was not a good idea,” he wrote. “For that, I apologise, enormously. I acknowledge it has only stirred up and inflamed attitudes and made us all dig our heels in.”

Guy Pearce as Kim Philby in ‘A Spy Among Friends’ (Sam Taylor/Sony Pictures Television)
Guy Pearce as Kim Philby in ‘A Spy Among Friends’ (Sam Taylor/Sony Pictures Television)

The Australian actor continued: “The point I wanted to raise was one about defending the definition of acting and nothing more. Throwing the subject onto one minority group in particular was unnecessary, especially from a man like me, with a ‘Full House’ of privilege.”

Pearce stipulated that he still believes “to suggest ‘acting’ can only come from our own lived experience annihilates our imagination.

“I wouldn’t want that restriction placed on a minority actor or any actor for that matter, myself included,” he said.

Pearce is the latest actor to weigh in on the debate over whether actors should play roles outside their lived experience.

In 2021, Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne said it was a “mistake” to play a transgender woman in the 2015 drama, The Danish Girl.

“The bigger discussion about the frustrations around casting is because many people don’t have a chair at the table. There must be a levelling, otherwise we are going to carry on having these debates,” Redmayne said.

Pearce most recently appeared in ITVX’s limited series, A Spy Among Friends alongside Damian Lewis, which came out last Christmas.

In a three-star review for The Independent, Nick Hilton described the big-budget adaptation as “a slug of hot mulled wine”.