Years ago, I learned it was valuable to do my research before I address controversial issues. So I took the time to get to know the writer-director, most of the producers, and some of the cast and crew of the new movie Anything, starring Matt Bomer. There were private screenings for them to receive feedback and I went to two of them, then of course to the premiere. So I've seen it three times now in its entirety.
I absolutely love the film for many reasons, and even from the very first time I saw a rough cut of it (pre-ADR and pre-color correction, before out trans composer Isley Reust's final music was added), it left me with a wonderful feeling of hope that a middle-aged trans person, like me, could find love. That's really the core of this film -- to show love and acceptance.
There's been some misinformation circulated about the film and repeated so often it's becoming "fake news." I'm writing this to clear some things up.
Anything was originally written more than a decade ago by Tim McNeil and was performed as a stage play in Los Angeles. Tim rewrote it as a screenplay and seven years ago pitched it to John Carroll Lynch, who at some point agreed to play Early in the film. Five years ago they were doing table reads (a table read is an event put on to try out different people in different roles, to see how a script flows, and to see who fits roles best, among other reasons).
Matt was cast to play Freda around 2- 1/2 years ago. That would put it before the famous Glee episode with the transgender choir. That's well before Caitlyn Jenner came out. That's a year before the smaller roles in Anything were cast.
If any trans actress in the U.S. felt like they didn't get a fair opportunity to play Freda, it could be that it was not listed on any service directly accessible by actors. About 80 percent of all casting calls are visible only to agents and managers. Some casting calls never even get published at all -- the actors asked to audition are on the casting director's short list. It is also typical for major roles to never be released as a casting call. I have been getting an increased number of those in the last several months, where a producer contacts me directly and asks for submissions directly to them, and the role never gets a casting call to the agents or the public.
Put that all on a timeline and you can see much of the production work predated the sudden rise of visibility of trans people within Hollywood. There were very few trans actors out there at that time, and none that I am aware of who could have been a name actor for a lead role -- who fit the breakdown of Freda.
Times have significantly changed since the writing, preproduction, and lead casting of Anything.
When the creative team did come around to casting supporting roles after production went into full swing, they did cast Gia Ryan and Roxy Wood as trans women playing trans roles. I know them both, and I perform regularly with Gia -- she and I sang the national anthem for the Dodgers game June 9 as members of the Trans Chorus of L.A.
You can see by other casting they did that they were trying to be very sensitive with what they knew at the time. For example, the role of Ted was played by Chris Thornton, who uses a wheelchair in real life. How often is Hollywood criticized for using able actors to play disabled characters? See, for example, Glee, with Kevin McHale playing Artie Abrams. Kevin does not need a wheelchair in real life.
As for the appearance of a trans person, casting varies widely on this. Some productions want the trans person to be impossible to discern as being transgender, as it will be either brought to light through dialogue or by some other means, typically later in the plot. Others want the trans person to be readily apparent to the audience immediately. I find the number of roles offered for each type to be about equal.
There are plenty of films coming with lead roles played by trans actors. One is a film soon to be announced, with an out trans actor playing a cisgender lead, in a major feature film. It will be the first time this has ever been done.
Carol Support Group, a short film, premiered the same day that Anything did, but up at the Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco. Gillian Cameron, an out transgender actress, played a supporting cisgender role in that.
There are many other films coming -- filmmaking takes a long time. Please, folks, do your homework before commenting on a film -- at least see it first.
Anything is a love story. It shows that love can come even to someone who is both trans and a sex worker. According to a recent study, only a tiny fraction of society would date a trans person. Being a sex worker makes it that much harder to find love.
So in the end, Anything instills hope for both trans people and sex workers. I can't think of a more wonderful way to convey hope.