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Bryan Cranston Plays Disabled Character in 'The Upside'

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Bryan Cranston is the latest able-bodied actor in Hollywood to play a disabled character. “The Upside,” which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival on Friday, stars Cranston as a wealthy quadriplegic man who hires a man with a criminal record (Kevin Hart) to take care of him. The film is based on the 2011 French film “The Intouchables,” which also stars an able-bodied actor in the role of a disabled man.

At the film’s screening, director Neil Burger told the Press Association in Toronto:

It is a really interesting question, does an able-bodied actor have the right to play a person with a disability? And there’s arguments on both sides of it.

All I know is that we did an incredible amount of research and went at it with as much respect and honesty that we could – and certainly Bryan Cranston did – and our goal is to shed light and be compassionate and be respectful to those communities.

“The Upside” is at least the third film this year to star an able-bodied actor in a disabled role. In July, Alec Baldwin starred as a blind man in the film “Blind,” and in October, Andrew Garfield will play disability advocate Robin Cavendish in “Breathe.”

Lack of casting diversity is repeatedly a problem in Hollywood. According to a report published by The Ruderman Family Foundation in 2016, nearly 20 percent of the country’s population lives with a disability and yet 95 percent of characters with disabilities are played by able-bodied actors.

“While we don’t know the auditioning history of ‘The Upside,’ casting a non-disabled actor to play a character with a disability is highly problematic and deprives performers with disabilities the chance to work and gain exposure,” Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation told the Press Association.


Image via Creative Commons/Gage Skidmore

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