These 10 Films Feature Deaf and Hard of Hearing Actors
“Representation” almost seems like a buzzword in the modern era when it comes to the entertainment industry. However, the lack of representation of some minority groups remains an issue that must be confronted. As someone with a hearing loss, I am sad to see that so many non-deaf or hard of hearing actors are cast in a role portraying a deaf and hard of hearing character, as there are so many deaf and hard of hearing actors who could play the part. Fortunately, there are films that cast deaf and hard of hearing actors. Here are 10 21st century, non-documentary films where deaf and hard of hearing actors actually played deaf and hard of hearing characters. One day, I hope this list can be so much longer.
1. “Baby Driver” (2017)
In 2017’s acclaimed action crime film “Baby Driver,” CJ Jones plays the protagonist Baby’s deaf foster parent Joseph. Both hearing and deaf actors auditioned for the role of Joseph, but Jones’ acting ability won him the role. Lead actor Ansel Elgort worked with a tutor on set in order to make sure his American Sign Language was accurate in the film for when he had to sign to Joseph on screen.
2. “The Family Stone” (2005)
“The Family Stone” is a “dramedy” which showcases a comedy of errors that occurs when the eldest Stone son brings home his seemingly uptight girlfriend over the holidays. Thad Stone, played by deaf actor Tyrone Giordano, is the youngest Stone son and an architect in this film. Director Thomas Bezucha had multiple American Sign Language teachers on set to teach the actors to sign, including Diane Keaton and Rachel McAdams, who played members of the Stone family.
3. “The Hammer” (2010)
“The Hammer” tells the story of Matt Hamill, a deaf student at Rochester Institute of Technology who won three collegiate wrestling championships. Deaf actor Russell Harvard played the main role, and this film won the Breakthrough Film audience award at the American Film Institute Film Festival.
4. “Marie’s Story” (2014)
Marie’s Story is a French biographical film which shares the story of Marie Heurtin, who was born deaf and blind in 19th-century France. Marie’s Story won the Variety Piazza Grande Award at the 67th Locarno International Film Festival.
5. “Orphan” (2009)
“Orphan” centers around the horrors which befall the Coleman family after they adopted a mysterious orphan named Leena. Aryana Engineer, who played the daughter Max Coleman, is partially deaf. Engineer was signed to a casting agent in 2007, who helped her receive this role after he saw her signing to her mother.
6. “A Quiet Place” (2018)
Horror film “A Quiet Place” shares the journey of the Abbott family, who cannot make any loud noises without grave consequences. Deaf actress Millicent Simmonds played the deaf daughter Regan Abbott in this film. Director and lead actor John Krasinski has said in numerous interviews that hiring a deaf actress was the only appropriate choice for casting the role of Regan.
7. “Sign Gene” (2017)
“Sign Gene” tells the fictional story of Tom Clerc, a deaf secret agent from a multi-generational deaf family, with deaf actor Emilio Insolera playing the main role. “Sign Gene” was originally supposed to only be a short film, but became a full-length feature after gaining attention and more funds.
8. “Sweet Nothing in My Ear” (2008)
“Sweet Nothing in My Ear” is a television film based on the play of the same name. Marlee Matlin played one of the main roles; she is the only deaf actor to win an Academy Award, for her work in “Children of a Lesser God.”
9. “The Tribe” (2014)
“The Tribe” is a 2014 Ukrainian film set in a boarding school for deaf teenagers. “The Tribe” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and received widespread acclaim from critics.
10. “Wonderstruck” (2017)
“Wonderstruck” also premiered at the Cannes Festival, and also starred Millicent Simmonds. The film weaves together two stories set 50 years apart, switching between the two frequently, and each tells the story of a child’s quest.