Someone needs to do something about Hollywood casting couches. Directors are getting it wrong.
Why am I saying this?
Well it’s simple. When I checked out my my facebook page this morning, several people had posted up a story about a campaign to get Scarlet Johannson removed from a film based on a Japanese story because she is not Japanese.
This got me thinking. What about films and stories where one of the main characters is a disabled person? How come the actors in those films are all non-disabled? There are some great disabled actors out there, why not use them? Could it be that non-disabled audiences are uncomfortable seeing what a real disabled person looks like?
Think about it. It’s not hard to come up with quite a lengthy list of blockbusters which include a disabled character. ‘Dr Strangelove’ was a wheelchair using Nazi Scientist, played by Peter Sellars, a non-disabled actor. Christy Brown in ‘My Left Foot’ was a depiction of a writer with cerebral palsy. Who played him? Daniel Day Lewis, another non disabled actor. More recently, Eddie Redmayne, again, a non disabled actor, received an Oscar for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking, a disabled man with Motor Neurone Disease, in ‘Theory of Everything’.
Why no ‘real’ disabled people?
I am not criticising these superstars for their performances, they have been brilliant. What I am criticising is the narrow-mindedness of the Hollywood casting directors who have not had the courage to look for a disabled actor for the role.
So there are no big-name disabled stars. Why not? Could this be because they have not been given a chance to shine? They are out there, Hollywood just needs to look harder.
We are starting to see genuine disabled people playing long-term disabled characters on TV in soaps and other dramas. Not so many years ago the only regular disabled character I can come up with is Rachel Burns in children’s drama, ‘Grange Hill’, played by disabled actress Franchesca Martinez. We have now have Liz Carr in ‘Silent Witness’, Cherlee Houston in Corrie, David Proud in ‘Eastenders’ and Kathy McGeever in Emmerdale. Brilliant! What a massive step forward for equality but how long will it be before we get to see those same actors on the big screen? Judging by the number of ethnic minority characters that are still being played by white actors it’ll be a while.
What I really want for casting directors to start thinking a bit more about who would be best for every role in a film. If one of your main characters has an ethnic minority background then, surely, the best person to play that character is an actor with a similar ethnic background. If you are making a film about a disabled person or with a disabled main character then, surely, the best person for the role would be an actor who has had similar experiences.
Cinema audiences need to become less squeamish about what they want to see on the big screen. Casting directors need to be less afraid of reflecting reality in their films. Genuine disabled people are a big part of real, day-to-day life, why are we not part of the fantasy cinematographic world too? There is no excuse, just fear.
Give disabled actors the roles.
Give us a chance to shine.
Let us show you what we can do, you may be surprised.