Filmmakers criticised for casting Jake Gyllenhaal as double amputee in Stronger
Campaigners say actors with disabilities were not considered for the role.
Filmmakers have been criticised for casting Jake Gyllenhaal in the leading role of double amputee Jeff Bauman in new movie Stronger – rather than an actor with disabilities.
Campaigners said the opportunity to cast a disabled actor for the part of the Boston Marathon survivor was “overlooked”.
The Ruderman Family Foundation, which fights for the rights of people with disabilities, called it an “all too common discrimination in Hollywood”.
Jay Ruderman, president of the foundation, said: “The casting of Jake Gyllenhaal as the lead in the movie Stronger is the perfect example of Hollywood’s ongoing systemic discrimination against actors with disabilities.
“Gyllenhaal may have been the best actor for the part, but if actors with disabilities are never given a chance to audition they will never have the opportunity to reach the success that someone like Gyllenhaal has achieved.
“People with disabilities are twenty percent of our society yet represent less than two percent of the actors we see on screen.
“This inauthenticity in having able-bodied actors play a character with a disability will inevitably be seen by the public buying tickets to Hollywood’s films as unacceptable, just as we wouldn’t accept a white actor play a black character.”
The movie, set to be released on September 22, is a biographical film based on the memoir of Jeff Bauman, who lost both of his legs during the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
Mr Ruderman said: “Gyllenhaal’s character presents a challenge since he plays a character who is able bodied and then through tragedy acquires a disability.
“Gyllenhaal is made ‘to have a disability’ through the latest in Hollywood’s technology, but an actor who is an actual double amputee could be made to walk through the same technology that was used to make Gyllenhaal disabled.
“We are frequently told that Hollywood big pictures need a marquee name to succeed, but this is simply not true.
“Great films with unknown actors have been box office success and have achieved critical acclaim. Just speak with Sylvester Stallone about Rocky and Marlee Matlin about Children of a Lesser God.”
In an interview with American television show Entertainment Tonight, director David Gordon Green said Gyllenhaal was the only actor he had considered for the role.
He told the programme: “He’s actually the only actor I spoke to about it. It was important to be able to have some levity and from my first meeting with Jake, I knew he was going to be a playful actor that was able to break some rules of acting and go with me on a journey that was going to be both emotional and ultimately uplifting.”
Meanwhile, the director of Bryan Cranston’s latest film has defended casting the able-bodied actor to play a disabled character.
The actor, known for starring as Breaking Bad’s Walter White, portrays a quadriplegic millionaire who befriends a convict hired to care for him in The Upside, a remake of the 2011 French global success The Intouchables.
He told the Press Association: “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.”