Ruderman Family Foundation criticizes Gyllenhaal casting for Stronger film

Casting the right actor for a film is always a sensitive matter. There are so many angles to consider, and pitfalls to be avoided, as the search for an individual who best represents a character or real-life figure takes place. While it's important that the filmmaker be allowed to realize their artistic vision, some would say that it's equally as important to be respectful to the origin and nature of a character as well - regardless of how much a person's star power will boost that project's visibility. It's a tight rope to walk for sure, and it's almost impossible to satisfy members from every camp.

Recently, as celebrities gathered on the red carpet at Boston's Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital for the premiere of David Gordon Green's new film, STRONGER, the Ruderman Family Foundation, a national leader in disability inclusion, had expressed its alarm in the casting of Jake Gyllenhaal for the leading role of double amputee Jeff Bauman. The group is claiming that Hollywood has once again overlooked the opportunity to cast actors with disabilities.

Coming forward to express the foundation's disapproval of the casting was President of the organization, Jay Ruderman, who said, "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 Ruderman, “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.”

If you happen to be unfamiliar with the premise of the film, STRONGER 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 added. “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."

This week in fact, the Ruderman Family Foundation unveiled the preliminary results for its Ruderman TV Challenge to hold auditions and cast more actors who genuinely represent people (or characters) with disabilities. Despite CBS and 20th Century Fox leading the way seven months in, the last TV season saw a mere 1.7% of its on-screen characters having a disability. When you stop and consider that 20% of Americans (myself included) have a disability, individuals with disabilities remain the most marginalized group in all of Hollywood.

Ruderman continued to speak his piece on the matter by saying “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 met with 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."

Ruderman does raise some interesting points. As we all know that Hollywood functions by way of countless moving parts, making a concentrated effort to audition and cast people with real-life disabilities could open the floodgates to a well of untapped talent and potential. There's also something to be said for authenticity. I know that if I heard about a film which featured a character who suffered from Crohn's disease, and the actor in that role did as well, I'd be doubly interested in checking that project out. Obviously, I don't have the answers to this on-going quandary. For the moment I do my small part by getting the word out here, and hoping for positive change.

STRONGER will arrive in theaters on September 22nd.

Extra Tidbit: I once performed in a local production with a woman who was wheelchair bound. She was the best damn actor we had in that troupe.
Source: JoBlo



Latest Entertainment News Headlines


Featured Youtube Videos