Pioneering Trans Model April Ashley Gets Movie Deal, Honor From Queen Elizabeth

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.

Try your hand at playing casting director in the comment section below!

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  • Triple S

    Damn Vimeo not letting foreigners watch the video…

    I wanna see!

  • Mr. Enemabag Jones

    But who should play Ashley?

    They’ll get some American “it” girl with fake boobs, and a bad accent to play her, and do their best to sanitize her transgender past. This is afterall a movie for het audiences, and they don’t like all that “alternative lifestyle” icky stuff.

  • Steve Ezell

    We’re changing our settings so vimeo will let everyone watch it!

  • Steve Ezell

    @Mr. Enemabag Jones: We’re changing our settings so vimeo will let everyone watch it!

    As a producer on the film, I can guarantee we won’t be “sanitizing” her transgender past. April is a trailblazer, and a proud leader in the fight for transgender equality. Minimizing any part of her extraordinary life would be an incredible disservice to her. The trailer can be viewed on until we get the vimeo link reset.

  • AS

    Her book is utterly fascinating, emotional and enlightening. I just wish the Queen would knight her instead of giving her a MBE so she can be called Dame April.

  • Jonathonz

    @Steve Ezell: Please, please, please Mr Ezell cast a man or better yet, a real transsexual in this role! There are so many talented transsexuals out there that are ready to have their moment! I’m sure there are many hundreds of talented unknowns that could play this amazing role but might I suggest, in all seriousness, Willam Belli or Candis Cayne?

  • Steve Ezell

    We’re still a little bit away form casting, but we are not ruling anyone out to play April. We’ll keep you all posted as we are start moving forward on that front. Thanks for the interest in our film, and thanks to Queerty for picking up April’s story!

  • Steve Ezell

    We’re still a little bit away form casting, but we are not ruling anyone out to play April. We’ll keep you all posted as we start moving forward on that front. Thanks for the interest in our film, and thanks to Queerty for picking up April’s story!

  • Eddie

    @Triple S: It worked for me and I’m a foreingner. Try again.

  • Mr. Enemabag Jones

    @Steve Ezell:

    I’ll take your word for it, Mr. Ezell. But after the disappointment that was TransAmerica, I usually expect to be let down. As Jonathonz pointed out, I’m sure there are some very talented transgendered actresses waiting for a role like this.

  • Sarina

    I feel Cillian Murphy would be perfect to play Miss April Ashley. He can be beautiful in drag with the poise of a model, best seen in the second half of “Breakfast on Pluto”, and he’s a remarkable actor.

    If the part were to be played by a woman, I’d choose Anna Madeley.

  • Steve Ezell

    @Mr. Enemabag Jones: I will do my absolute best not to let anyone down. This is why we’re pushing so hard to get the word out through blogs and social networks now! The bigger the collective voice backing us, the easier it will be to put a transgendered person in the lead role. Imagine the walls it would break down! I assure you, nothing would make April and the entire producing team happier than to see April’s story continue to blaze a trail for future generations to come, not only in the trans community, but throughout the LGBT community as a whole.

    We’ve posted the question on our facebook page, asking who you’d like to see playing the role of April Ashley. Please weigh in!

  • Gauthier

    @Mr. Enemabag Jones: That may be your opinion, but I thought Transamerica was a success. I, too, would push for a transgendered or queer actor/actress, but WITHOUT marginalizing any cis performers because they have as much right to a role as anyone. But for the sake of moving forward, yes, please let the public get acquainted with another side of the rainbow.

    And wow. That woman was truly gorgeous.

  • Mike

    This has nothing to do with bisexuals, gay men, or lesbians so why is this somehow news or on queerty?

  • Scribe37

    @Mike: I think the cOmments above yours prove there is interest On this site for transsexuals, if you don’t like it just don’t click on the story.

  • David

    Wow such poise. I bet you her house is beautiful. Nice video.

  • ginasf

    Having a male actor play April (even a pretty one like Cillian Murphy) would be a total insult. It’s suggestions like this which kind of make me dread non-trans people attempting to portray trans lives at all. it reminds me of gay men like Brian Charles Rooney or WIllam Belli who both made a mess of playing Candy Darling much less Stephen Dorff playing her (really, an embarrassing joke). It’s not just April they would be portraying, but the entire scene at Le Carrousel including beautiful trans women like Coccinelle, Bambi and Amanda Lear (before she was named Amada Lear). April had an amazing life going from horrific slums and child abuse, to Paris to high fashion, to being buds with celebrities to being a total pariah who had to fight for her rights despite being humiliated by the press. it’s an incredible story and i would hate to see it be given a second rate, thoughtless treatment.

  • RJ

    I agree Mike, why is a trans news story on this site? This has NOTHING to do with bisexuals of both genders, or gay men or women even though Trans people and nutty trans activists want to hijack LGB rights and pretend that they’ve always been for LGB rights when in reality Trans activists are some of the most biphobic and homophobic people I have ever met.

  • sheena

    @Jonathonz: willam belli ARE U SERIOUS??? of all her beauty u will make the comical WILLAM BELLI DO HER…..thats crazy… much as i love willam this beauty and femininity cant be portrayed by willam….candice could play a great role…..

  • sheena

    @Mike: go kill urself pedophile

  • Gauthier

    @RJ: Oh noez, the trolls are spawning! One of the worst things about Queerty is that they seem to be too lazy to ban imbeciles like you forever, which is why the comment sections are always festering with bigoted drivel like yours…

  • Bobs

    The gender bending model Andrej Pejic would be the perfect physical personification of April. I’m not sure if he can act or speak English, though :)

  • Ajai

    Why not cast a transgendered actor?

  • Seth

    Agree with Mike. Stop pushing this trans stuff on us Queerty. Gay men do not want to become women. Lesbians do not want to become men. If that’s what trans people want for themselves, go for it. But don’t associate me with that.

    Mr. Ezell, I couldn’t care less about your film. I hope it bombs at the box office. And speaking of bombs, why don’t you do a film about how disturbed, violent transgender activists firebombed a bank in Oregon last month?

  • Brian C. R.

    @ginasf: Really? A mess? Thanks a lot, Ginasf. That’s incredibly snotty of you. I played Candy as seen through the haze of Andy Warhol’s dream… it was never a strict biographical interpretation, much less an impersonation. The show, “Pop” takes place in Andy’s head… immediately following his being shot by Valerie Solanas. The characters are all used as a device to illustrate a modernized pop interpretation of Andy’s world in a way… almost a the silk-screen version of a Broadway musical. A few of Candy’s actual friends saw my performance and told me they liked what I had done… that it was a very nice homage. Your comment is incredibly unfair. I’m an actor… and that role is incredibly demanding… find me a trans actor who can sing four octaves, and play comedy and drama well, and look the way I did. I don’t mean to sound like some ego-maniac, but I am incredibly offended by your comments.

  • Brian C. R.

    Also, if you think for a minute that I wasn’t incredibly sensitive to the fact that I was playing a trans person, a legendary one for that matter, and didn’t do a ton of research, you would be DEAD wrong.

    A mess?? How horrible.. I doubt you even SAW the show… I want details… prove to me you saw it… prove to me you aren’t some keyboard warrior who has an axe to grind. :( Candy matters a great deal to me.

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