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‘The Assignment’ Director, Writer Defend Sex Reassignment Storyline: ‘Character Is Not Transgender’

Variety logo Variety 4/4/2017 Michael Tedder

At last night’s New York City premiere of Walter Hill‘s film “The Assignment,” star Michelle Rodriguez was very upfront about why she took on the challenging role of a male hitman that undergoes a forced sex change operation at the hands of a vengeful plastic surgeon (Sigourney Weaver).

© Provided by Variety “I am kind of tired of doing the monotonous PG-13 stuff that is very predictable,” Rodriguez said at The Whitby Hotel. “You reach a point where there’s 15 years of the same stuff, and you go: ‘You know what? Either I got to switch up my game or I have to quit this stuff.’ Once you stop being curious about what you do, then I think it’s time to move on to something else.”

The film was written by novelist and former New York Daily News columnist Denis Hamill 40 years ago. He says that at the time he just wanted to write a “different” kind of pulp movie, and admits that the film arrives in “a completely different age” and that the whole topic is filled with politics that he didn’t anticipate.

“First of all, the character is not transgender. To be transgender, you have to believe you are in the wrong body,” he says. “He’s forced into a body into which he does not identify with. He’s gone through a sex change, but it’s not a gender change. It’s not at all making fun of or exploiting the people in the transgender community, who I have nothing but sympathy for. Politically, everybody who made this film is a progressive person. The last thing we wanted to do was insult anybody. It’s pure entertainment.”

The film has received mixed, often divisive reviews. The headline of the Refinery29 write-up of the film was “This Movie Starring Michelle Rodriguez as a Trans Assassin Is Beyond Problematic.” The response took the director by surprise, he admits, though he insists he set out to make a “lurid” pulp film and nothing more.

“The movie is consistent with transgender theory,” Hill said. “He’s a guy inside his head, we had no idea when we were getting ready to make the movie that this was going to be a volatile subject.”

“I’m certainly not here to make the journey of transgender people more difficult. As a matter of fact, I even find the suggestion insulting,” he said. “We live in times where identity politics are rather prevalent, and people politicize almost everything.”

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