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Thread: "The Upside" disability casting debate

  1. #1
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    Default "The Upside" disability casting debate

    Does anyone here on the forum have thoughts about this?

    I don't think able bodied actors should be barred from playing disabled characters but disabled actors should have first preference in casting calls so long as they have the skill for playing the character. I think disabled actors play disabled characters more naturally in general. This particular character in "The Upside" seems to have complex needs so a less disabled actor would probably be necessary if he were played by a disabled actor. I also think disabled actors should have the chance to audition for characters not originally written as disabled so long as the writer of the work approves it and the disabled actor again has the right skills. All in all this movie looks better than "Me Before You".

    Feel free to chime in.
    Mild Spastic Diplegia Cerebral Palsy and bad proprioception.
    My website for my original short films!

  2. #2
    Distinguished Community Member Earth Mother 2 Angels's Avatar
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    ((((((funnylegs4)))))) ~

    First, we need to remember that this is Hollywood. Hollywood is out to make mega bucks off of every film produced. That means tailoring scripts around popular actors, eg., Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, etc. Bryan Cranston is also a popular actor from "Breaking Bad." He's also an outstanding, talented actor. These stars bring in the dough.

    Casting an unknown actor in a role such as "The Upside," regardless of that actor's physical abilities, opposite Kevin Hart, would never happen.

    Hollywood is very slow in embracing differences. "Crazy Rich Asians," which I think is very well done, is the first big film featuring an Asian cast, since "The Joy Luck Club." Sandra Oh, who is Korean, just won a Golden Globe. The first Asian woman to do so. Not long ago, Halle Barry was the first black woman to win an Oscar for best actress.

    Since film/theatre began, gay and lesbian actors have portrayed heterosexual characters. Montgomery Clift, Tony Perkins, Tab Hunter, Rock Hudson, Ellen DeGeneres. It's a long list. And LGBQT movies were underground. Actors had to pretend that they were straight and were paired with "beards" provided by the studios to attend as dates for big events.

    So, discrimination in Hollywood is as old as the first movie ever made.

    Moreover, portraying an individual with specific kinds of disabilities could be difficult for an actor with those disabilities.

    Dwayne Johnson in "Skyscraper" portrayed a man, who lost his leg in an explosion and used a prosthetic. Assuming that Dwayne did most of his stunts, they would probably be too taxing for an actor, who was physically disabled.

    Moreover, "Skyscraper" is an action-adventure film, a fantasy, if you will, because no one, however able bodied, even The Rock, could have survived all that he did in that movie. Same goes for all of The Rock's other similar films.

    If a movie were to be made about my sons, actors with their same level of disabilities would be impossible to find.

    As a film maker, you know how strenuous film making is, and the demands placed upon everyone involved in the production.

    I would suspect that Hollywood's hold out in using more actors with disabling conditions hinges on several factors.

    1. Accommodating all of the actor's needs
    2. Liability/Insurance
    3. The actors' limitations in performing certain aspects of a role, thereby requiring stand-ins

    I am not defending Hollywood. I'm being realistic about the BUSINESS of entertainment.

    And, when confronted, actors and others in the business will respond with the same lip service as Cranston and Hart in this article. All for inclusion, and giving actors with disabilities a chance. Blah blah blah. In the next breath saying, "Why can't I play a person with a disabiity? Or a gay person? Or a President?"

    But it always comes down to the bottom line. And Hollywood is well known for dragging its feet to keep up with modern times.

    Visibility helps the cause. Women actors now are all wrapped up in equality in film for women. Black actors, Asian actors, LGBQT actors ... they all have access to resources, which typically are not available to disabled actors.

    For decades, I have referred to the community of people with disabilities as the "Forgotten Minority." Listen to politicians' speeches mentioning every other disenfranchised group, and note how often people with disabilities are not mentioned. Look at every professional career, and count the number of people with disabilities holding those positions. Comedians still get cheap laughs ridiculing people with disabilities. The person in the Oval Office has mocked people with disabilities and banished disabled children from his rallies.

    People with disabilities are still "The Other." There are no famous champions for their needs, fighting for their equality, and pointing out the blatant discrimination against them. They don't have powerful organizations advocating for them. How many disabled legislators are there at all levels of government?

    Change begins with power in numbers, with leadership, and visibility. People with disabilities are still devalued in today's society, which means they are oppressed. And many films about people with disabilities portray the disabled character as being bitter, angry, suicidal, hopeless, encumbered, and lonely.

    What you are doing with your film making, funnylegs4, is breaking the stereotype, and giving people with disabilities opportunities to show their talent and reveal the truth about having a disability. We need more film makers like you to make a dent in the armor of Hollywood. MANY MORE.

    But, realistically, we can't expect that to happen any time soon.

    Because, it's all about ...


    Love & Light,

    Mom to Jon, 49, (seizure disorder; Gtube; trache; colostomy; osteoporosis; hypothyroid; enlarged prostate; lymphedema, assorted mysteries) and Michael, 32, (intractable seizures; Gtube), who were born with an undiagnosed progressive neuromuscular disease and courageous spirits. Our Angel Michael received his wings in 2003 and now resides in Heaven. Our Angel Jon lives at home with me and Jim, the world's most wonderful Dad.

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