One of the first people to undergo gender-reassignment surgery, April Ashley has worked as an actress, cabaret performer and Vogue model. Now 77, Ashley is seeing her life story optioned as a movie even as she prepares to accept an MBE from Queen Elizabeth this fall.
Lawless Entertainment has just teamed up with Pacific Films and Limey Yank Productions to bring Ashley’s story to to the big screen. It’s hardly her first brush with fame, though—she had a small role in the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby flick The Road to Hong Kong, and in her 2006 autobiography, The First Lady, alleged affairs with Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif and Michael Hutchence.
Ashley also had the dubious distinction of being one of the first British people outed as transgender when a “friend” sold her story to the Sunday People in 1961. Her marriage to British noble Arthur Corbett was annulled after seven years in 1970 on the grounds that she’d been born male, even though Corbett was full aware of her background. Ashley was legally recognized as a female after the passage of the UK’s Gender Recognition Act in 2004, and issued a new birth certificate with help from Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, an old friend.
A trans woman rubbing elbows with the rich, famous and powerful in Swinging ’60s London? This could be a brilliant movie. But who should play Ashley? Cillian Murphy showed he can straddle gender lines in Breakfast on Pluto. Or, going in another direction, Charlize Theron and Catherine Zeta Jones have both shown they can play sensual but mysterious femme fatales.
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