BREAKING, LONDON: New rules which come into force today will limit the actors who can apply for roles in the theatre or on film and TV.
The new rules, by the actor’s union EQUITY, are being introduced as the result of pressure by minority groups, such as transsexuals.
In future transsexual parts can only be cast with real transsexual actors.
The move follows years of argument over whether cis-gendered actors (i.e. people who are not trans) should portray trans women or men in new productions.
Activists had cited historical precedent.
“Gone are the days when boys routinely played women’s roles”, explained Frank Furter of the Trans Thespians Union.
“The policy excluded women from acting for decades”
“And it is considered bad taste these days for white men to black up on stage or screen”, he added.
Others argue that it is increasingly seen as inappropriate for able bodied actors to play disabled parts, especially as disabled actors don’t have the same flexibility to play non-disabled roles.
“If you’ve got a deformed spine then, chances are, you won’t even get auditioned for Richard III”, declaimed another actor.
The new policy from EQUITY is seen as a fair way to address inequalities like these at a stroke, rather than on a case by case basis.
“If it is wrong for men or boys to play women, and for whites to play blacks then, yes, it’s unfair for cis-gender actors to play trans people”, said a spokeswoman.
“The same goes for other examples too”, she explained.
“The more we put these things rights, the more unfair the remaining anomalies become.”
“But it cuts both ways”, she added.
“No more gays playing straight parts.”
The spokeswoman conceded, however, that the policy did also redefine acting.
“In the old days an actor was someone who dressed up and pretended to be someone they weren’t”
“Actors were judged on how well they pulled off the role … think Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep playing Queen Elizabeth or Margaret Thatcher”, she added.
All this will change now though.
“If the play is about a trans woman then only trans women can be considered for the part”, explained the spokeswoman.
“And if the script calls for a 48 year old lesbian with one leg then producers can only audition genuine lesbians of that age.”
“The actor needn’t have only one leg at the time of the audition”, she added helpfully.
“But the leg will need to be off before previews”.
Critics argue that the policy will lead to shortages of suitable acting talent in some areas.
Others fear that scripts will be increasingly tailored to reflect the supply of actors.
And some say that science fiction, superhero and other fantasy genres will find it hard to audition.
“If you’re making a Superman movie then in future the part can only be played by an actor who really is faster than a speeding bullet”, a miserable Steven Spielberg told us by phone from Hollywood.
“If I was doing E.T. now then I’d have to audition real fucking aliens”, he added with evident bitterness.
Stephen Frears, Director of The Queen, also thinks that writers will shy away from producing scripts about living Royals or politicians, knowing how difficult it will be to bring them to the screen.
“From now on I’ll be shooting films in which Helen Mirren has to play herself”, he told us.
Knock on effects
The policy is also expected to have collateral effects for makeup, prosthetics and CGI specialists.
“If they are casting a real Klingon for a new Star Trek movie then they are not going to need us to put on those ridgy bits”, mourned a prosthetics specialist.
“And if we are bringing in real superheroes who can fly then green screen is dead”, added a CGI specialist.
Trans actors are meanwhile weighing up the implications for themselves too.
“The policy has led to Granada killing off Hayley Cropper as she’s played by a cis-gender actress”, explained a trans actress who had been inspired to enter the profession by seeing Julie Hesmondhalgh play the part.
“But Julie’s departure isn’t going to make any new work for me”, she added.
“Work’s going to be tough now unless people suddenly start writing stories about trans people”.