LGBT

Elle Fanning Plays A Trans Teen Boy In The New "3 Generations" Trailer

The film, which also stars Susan Sarandon and Naomi Watts, has faced criticism for its trans storyline, as well as for casting a cis actor in a trans role.

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3 Generations — a film by Gaby Dellal originally slated for release following its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015, when it was titled About Ray — is back with a new release date, a new title, and a new trailer.

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The film stars Elle Fanning as Ray, a young transgender teen living in New York City who struggles to make his family understand and support his decision to begin transitioning medically. Fanning is accompanied onscreen by Naomi Watts, who plays his mother, and Susan Sarandon, who plays his lesbian grandmother.

The film, which had been living in limbo for over a year after The Weinstein Company pulled the project just days before its original release date, will now be released on May 5 of this year.

Before 3 Generations could even hit big screens around the country, the film drew criticism from the LGBT community for its handling of the trans storyline and, in particular, for casting a cis actor in a trans role.

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Dellal was also criticized for the way she discussed the trans character in press for the film in 2015. She used female pronouns when referring to Fanning's character, Ray.

"My initial reaction is — I totally understand and I totally understand where the trans community is coming from," Dellal said of the backlash in a phone interview with BuzzFeed News.

"In my situation — I guess I was in a tricky situation because I needed to find an actor who was experienced enough to take on this role, who hadn't transitioned yet, who was a trans man or trans boy. That's quite a tall order. Unfortunately, I was unable to fill that role," Dellal said. "When someone is struggling for a voice, they need everyone to support them. And the best thing we can do is do things like cast [trans actors] and give them a voice. Unfortunately, I was unable to do that."

Dellal explained that, at its heart, the film is about "exploring the changes within our culture and the way families today deal with that changing culture."

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"The story came from me, as a parent, coming up against several challenges in my own family — which weren't about a trans kid necessarily — but were just specific to our family," she said. "The realization that in the end, as a parent, I look to my child to teach and educate me."

Dellal was inspired to explore a trans storyline after she ran into a father whose child just came out as transgender. She recalled being so moved by his story and his acceptance of his child, as well as the challenges he faced, that she decided to include that plotline in the film.

"I watched them go through the various moments in their transition as a family, from afar," Dellal explained.

For the new release date, the original film has been slightly recut. "We changed the music and we made it a little bit more raw. We did temper the humor a little bit," Dellal said.

When asked if she had reached out to any trans individuals or groups before making the film, Dellal said that she and Elle Fanning spent a considerable amount of time interviewing and getting to know young transgender teens.

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"I spent a lot of time at the LGBT center in New York, and I spent a lot of time with individuals kids I met through my children's friends who were transitioning," she said.

Dellal mentioned her own assistant on set was a young trans man who had not yet gone through medical transition, much like the main character of the film. Dellal also mentioned that GLAAD worked beside her team throughout the duration of the filming to ensure the script felt "authentic."

A statement provided to BuzzFeed News from GLAAD described the group's involvement in the film:

"The director of GLAAD's Transgender Media Program provided a few notes on the script the week they began shooting. Another transgender GLAAD staff member did a brief training on-set the day filming began to give the cast and crew a broad overview of transgender terminology and issues. After filming finished, GLAAD also sat down with select cast members, the director and producers to review best practices for speaking to the public about families with transgender children and the experiences that transgender youth face."

Dellal describes making the film, and everything that came in its aftermath, as "an incredible learning curve." The director's hope is that 3 Generations will, in turn, educate and open viewers' minds to the various struggles young trans people face.

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"I couldn't be a bigger advocate and I couldn't be more moved by the plight of so many kids and adults," she said. “I hope that we can have a social impact with this film.”

The Weinstein Company announced on Thursday that the company is currently challenging the MPAA's decision to give the film an R rating.

"The fact that an 'R' rating would prevent high school students from seeing this film would truly be a travesty," TWC Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein said in a released statement.

Dellal emphasized the importance of the film being accessible to young teens. "So many people are segregated, sitting at home talking to their computer screens thinking nobody understands their situation," she said. "Maybe a trans kid will walk away thinking, 'My mom might see this. I can’t speak to her, but maybe my mom will see it.'"

3 Generations hits theaters May 5th.

Sarah Karlan is the Deputy LGBT Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Sarah Karlan at sarah.karlan@buzzfeed.com.

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