Eddie Redmayne shies away from awards speculation at The Danish Girl premiere

Eddie Redmayne has shied away from growing speculation his latest role as a transgender woman is set to earn him a second Oscar.

The star described upcoming film The Danish Girl, a drama based on the journey of Lili Elbe, one of the first transgender women, as "one of the great love stories of the 21st century".

Redmayne, 33, fell in the love with the story of the artist and her supportive wife, Gerda, overnight, according to director Tom Hooper, who handed him a copy of the script while they were filming Les Miserables.

Both the director and his co-star, Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, 27, praised Redmayne for his "extraordinary" performance as they arrived on the red carpet for the film's London premiere, less than a year since he was named best actor at the Academy Awards for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.

But Redmayne, who braved the chilly December night dressed in a tartan suit, shrank from critics' suggestions he is in line to receive the Academy Award for best actor two years in a row.

Instead he paid tribute to the tale of the artist, her wife and the attitudes they endured as she underwent gender reassignment surgery in the 1930s.

He said: "Getting to play her was one of the most wonderful presents, I just thought her and Gerda's story - I couldn't believe I hadn't heard it before - I thought it was one of the great love stories of the 21st century, it was the most wonderful experience getting to play her."

Redmayne researched the film by spending time within the transgender community and read Elbe's diaries, which he said had revealed her battle against the "masculinity around her".

The actor said the role had been a "great responsibility", but when asked if the film was an Oscar-winner he replied: "God, no, don't do that."

Hooper's blockbuster The King's Speech stormed the Academy Awards in 2011, winning four Oscars after it received the most nominations ever.

It was on the set for Les Miserables when he approached Redmayne to take the challenging central role in The Danish Girl.

He said: "Eddie's very emotionally connected, which is exciting and it was on the barricades of Les Miserables I handed him the script in a brown paper envelope and said 'please read this, I would love you to do it'.

"He came back the next morning and said 'I am in love with this script like you were, let's do it'."

The director said it had taken seven years to get Elbe's story in cinemas, which showed attitudes were still changing nearly 100 years on.

Speaking of first coming across the script, he said: "At that time it was considered a hard film to make, maybe risky, a difficult film to finance.

"But to see how it has been embraced shows how far we have come as a culture, there's been a great shift in terms of the popular acceptance of trans stories and the interest in trans stories and that's fantastic."

Building Redmayne's character centred on understanding Elbe's psychological journey from man to to woman "from the inside out", he said.

"We tried various things but it was when we chose the simplest look that Lili came alive and Eddie relaxed most."

The Danish Girl is in cinemas on January 1.