Boston, MA – As celebrities gathered this week on the red carpet at Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital for the premiere of Hollywood’s new film, Stronger, the Ruderman Family Foundation, a national leader in disability inclusion, has expressed its dismay in the casting of Jake Gyllenhaal for the leading role of double amputee Jeff Bauman, once again overlooking the opportunity to cast actors with disabilities.
“The casting of Jake Gyllenhaal as the lead in the movie Stronger is the perfect example on Hollywood’s ongoing systemic discrimination against actors with disabilities.” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “By his own admission, Director David Gordon Green never even considered any other actors in a role in which Gyllenhaal plays a character who is a double amputee. By not even giving actors who are amputees the chance to audition for the role awarded to Gyllenhaal, Green effectively denied actors with disabilities to even be considered for the role.”
The movie, set to be released on September 22nd and starring Jake Gyllenhaal is a biographical film based on the memoir of the same name by Jeff Bauman, who lost both of his legs during the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
“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,” Ruderman continued. “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.”
“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.”
Just this week the Ruderman Family Foundation announced the preliminary results for its Ruderman TV Challenge to audition and cast more actors with disabilities. Despite CBS and 20th Century Fox leading the way seven months in, the last TV season saw just 1.7% of characters on screen having a disability. Considering 20% of Americans have a disability, people with disabilities remain the most marginalized group in Hollywood.
“We are frequently told that Hollywood big pictures need a marquee name to succeed, but this is simply not true,” Ruderman went on to say. “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.”
“The real problem with Stronger is that actors with disabilities were never given the chance to audition. This all too common discrimination in Hollywood must stop.”