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Eddie Redmayne: 'Danish Girl' transgender role was 'a gift'

Eddie Redmayne sure knows how to pick his movie roles.

Earlier this year the British actor won his first Academy Award for playing Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything." Early buzz now indicates he may get a second shot at the Oscar, this time for playing an artist in "The Danish Girl" who was one of the first known people to undergo transgender surgery.

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Eddie Redmayne shares why playing Lili in ‘The Danish Girl’ was a gift

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Eddie Redmayne shares why playing Lili in ‘The Danish Girl’ was a gift

Play Video - 4:59

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"Lili was born Einar Wegener. She was an artist, and she was living in a time in which there were no examples or even vocabulary with which she could understand what it was that she was going through," Redmayne told TODAY's Matt Lauer Thursday about his starring role.

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Eddie Redmayne as Lili in "The Danish Girl."

In the film, Einar is married to a fellow artist, Gerda, who is at first amused and then bemused by his discovery of the woman inside. When Einar (now Lili) takes the step of pursuing surgery to complete her physical transformation into a woman, Gerda sticks with her, but the consequences may not give them what they seek.

MORE: 'The Danish Girl' trailer shows Eddie Redmayne tackling new role, new gender

Redmayne, who was given the script by director Tom Hooper while making Hooper's "Les Miserables," called it an "amazing, beautiful love story."

And if Lili manages to help Redmayne earn a second Oscar statue in a row, he'll join some exalted company: Only Tom Hanks and Spencer Tracy have ever earned back-to-back Academy Awards as lead actors.

"This film has been 15 years in the making," he added. "The fact that I am the person who was there when the film got its financing and got made was a gift."

In the end, he said, he's honored just by being able to "play interesting people.

"By playing Stephen Hawking, I thought I had my lot," he added. "When I was preparing to play Lili, I met many women from the trans community who were sensationally generous and kind.... The transparency and the need to educate me by opening their hearts was amazing."

"The Danish Girl" opens in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on Nov. 27. It goes nationwide on Dec. 25.

Follow Randee Dawn on Twitter.

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