By now, you've heard the news. Elliot Page, star of The Umbrella Academy and Junohas come out as trans. Like any modern celebrity, Page published the revelation himself, via a tweeted note. He specified his pronouns (he/they), and gave his new name along with some admonishments to anti-trans people. There was a flurry of public support (except for some silly TERFs who idiotically moaned they'd "lost" a lesbian). Netflix announced that all of the titles with Page's name on them will be updated starting on Tuesday. Many outlets have already pivoted to calling him by his new name. The change has been seamless.
What hasn't changed is his acting ability. Back when he broke on the scene with the thriller Hard Candy, USA Today marveled at Page's ability to play a character "both cruelly callous and likable" and went on to call his portrayal "one of the most complex, disturbing and haunting performances of the year."
His biggest star turn came of course with Juno. The New York Times called him "poised, frightfully talented." Celebrity followed, and he went on to star in both punky flicks like Whip It and blockbusters like Inception.
Now, with a newly public gender identity, the landscape for Page has changed a bit. Actresses in their 30s notoriously have fewer roles to choose from. Men, on the other hand, have the luxury of getting more parts the older they get. Those statistics aside, trans actors are excluded from Hollywood roles across the board.
Now let me be clear: Page has not necessarily said he identifies as a man. He will continue to act on the Netflix show The Umbrella Academy, a role that was not written with his current pronouns in mind. It's possible that Page will continue playing what seem like women's roles for the time being, especially as he settles into his trans identity.
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That's his prerogative, because trans actors don't share the cis privilege of having tons of available roles created with their identities in mind. "Trans actors should be able to play any parts they feel comfortable doing, and not feel pigeonholed by whatever their identity is," Jes Tom, a nonbinary actor and comedian, says to me on the phone.
Still, as a person on the he/they side of the spectrum, it's maybe safe to assume Page will start going for more masc roles. If Hollywood wants to prove they're not transphobic, now is their chance! We have a talented actor with a high public profile entering prime casting range, so we should expect some meaty parts for Page.
No doubt this prospect has some executives sweating. "People are afraid that they're not gonna get our identities right, they're afraid they're gonna mess up our pronouns, or they're afraid they're gonna do something that's gonna make them get cancelled," Tom tells me over the phone. But producers, casting agents and directors, don't be afraid! See this as an opportunity.
Here are some wish list suggestions for how Hollywood could cast Page.
Dante "Tex" Gill in "Rub & Tug"
Rub & Tug is the tale of Dante 'Tex' Gill, who built a crew of LGBT people to do crime in 1970s Pittsburgh, thwarting the efforts of rival gangsters and law enforcement to build a seedy massage parlor empire.
Gill had plenty of screen-worthy panache for Page to delve into. He was so notorious that he earned the title "Dubious Man of the Year" from The Pittsburgh Press. The publication said "[Gill] embodies business savvy, sexual confusion and an eye for fashion like no one since Michael Jackson." His antics include allegedly throwing a cake at an undercover state trooper and reciting Irish poetry after getting drunk at parties.
Gill died in the late '80s, before the modern trans rights movement got into full swing, so his thoughts on his own identity remain somewhat murky. Historians have since looked back and speculated Gill would identify as a transgener man if he was hustling in the streets today. While he didn't seek gender reassignment surgery until after he got out of prison in 1987, we all know that surgery does not a transgender person make. Gill was known for dressing only in suits and asking for everyone to refer to him as Mr Gill.
This obviously trans behavior stands pretty stark in today's light, but in the '70s people didn't have the same language we do today. Cis people certainly didn't have the same level of understanding. We're better now, or so we thought until news broke that Scarlett Johansson would be playing the role of Gill on screen. Outrage ensued, especially after Johansson's flippant comment to tell critics "that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman's ress for comment."
Now Deadline reports that Rub & Tug is being turned into a TV series with a commitment to cast a trans actor to play the lead role. What better way to ensure this incredible queer period piece gets the attention it needs than attaching a A-list actor like Page? He's got a keen sense of irony and the wit to play such a larger-than-life role, and we already know he looks killer in a suit.
A Reboot of "Boys Don't Cry"
Because new ideas scare Hollywood more than minorities in meaningful roles (or in places of power behind the scenes), here's a softball pitch: Let's reboot the iconic Boys Don't Cry! It would truly be the most painfully obvious role Hollywood could give Page, but it would be an improvement on the original. The independent film propelled Hilary Swank from nobody to Oscar darling when it came out in 1999, and I bet the academy still has a soft spot for it.
The real life tale of Brandon Teena (spoilers) who gets murdered when his gender identity is revealed is of course tragic. The phenomenon of violence against trans people has not gone away since the film came out, something Page notes in his coming out note: "in 2020 alone it has been reported that at least 40 transgender people have been murdered, the majority of which are Black and Latinx women." This story would be just as relevant now as it was then, but now we have the opportunity to make it in a more respectful way.
Any Part Intended for a Cis Man
I personally want Elliot Page to put Timothée Chalamet out of business! Like I said previously, Hollywood casts men more as they go over 30, and Page deserves the same treatment. The kind yet somewhat cool English teacher! The person Dan Levy dates in the sequel to The Happiest Season, also known online as the lesbian Christmas movie! "I think of the cis men that they played opposite, like Michael Cera and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and now Elliot is Joseph Gordon-Levitt," says Tom.
If you want to make sci-fi dreams come true, cast Page as Han Solo in a Star Wars prequel. Now that Disney owns Star Wars they're going to keep making Star Wars movies until there's more than the Marvel ones! We need one of a swaggering Han Solo with an impish charm (with his baby-faced looks Page could play younger). Page could sell that smirk and wry delivery in his sleep! He's already played Han during a 2014 staged reading of The Empire Strikes Back.
Write Some New Trans/Nonbinary Characters
Write some goddamn roles, Hollywood. That's your job. Give trans people the option to act in cis roles but also write full-figured trans characters, like Jules from Euphoria. Hunter Schafer put it best for Variety when she said, "There need to be more roles where trans people aren't just dealing with being trans; they're being trans while dealing with other issues. We're so much more complex than just one identity."
Let's tell the story of a trans character who is still alive when the movie ends! There's money to be made, and plenty of stories that have yet to be told. Write them, and cast Elliot to bring them to life in a way we know he can.
Photo via Getty
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