Buzzfeed has reported several comments from Marlee Matlin, the Deaf Oscar-winning actress, about attitudes she has faced in her career, including the time she didn’t get a part, only to be asked to teach the successful actress “how to be deaf.”
She also said that disability can be seen as “baggage” in the film industry, and that she lost a role (of a character who was suicidal) because a director didn’t want people to assume deaf people might commit suicide. Another director allegedly said that her deafness might be a distraction.
Matlin was among several disabled actors who were speaking at an event called the Ruderman Studio-Wide Roundtable on Disability Inclusion.
The article says:
Matlin, who is Deaf, said some TV- and filmmakers see disability as “baggage” — an extra layer of personal identity that may baffle audiences (or casting directors).
“Sorry,” she said sarcastically to a crowd of around 80 people, many of whom were performers and creators with disabilities. “It’s good baggage. It’s what we need.”
Matlin told a story about an initially promising discussion she had with Jane Campion about playing the lead role of Ada — a nonverbal character — in 1993’s The Piano. Her recollection was that the writer-director said that she was great for the part, but that audiences would be distracted by a known Deaf actor. “And people believe that Al Pacino is really blind in Scent of a Woman?” Matlin said she replied. (Campion did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
During the panel, Matlin said she had auditioned to play a deaf character, but it ultimately went to a non-deaf woman — and then filmmakers “had the nerve” to ask Matlin to teach the actor “how to be Deaf.”
An impulse to tiptoe around disability can cost actors jobs, too: Matlin said she lost a role in What Women Want to a non-deaf actor because the director thought casting a Deaf woman in the role was too fraught with potential controversy. After the audition, Matlin remembered that the director, Nancy Meyers, had said, “‘You know what? You gave a great performance — thank you — but the character has thoughts of suicide, and I don’t want people to think that deaf people kill themselves.’ I looked at her and I said, ‘Fine, but they do.’” (Meyers did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.)
Read the full article here.
The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
Please note that the views of the writers are their own, and not necessarily the views of the Editor or site as a whole. Read our disclaimer here.
- Phonak: innovative technology and products in hearing acoustics
- Ai-Media: Remote captioning. Check out these captioning fails!
- Bellman & Symfon: home alerting solutions
- Deaf Umbrella: sign language interpreting and communications support
- Clarion: BSL/English interpreting and employment services
- Appa: Communication services for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing people
- Signature: Find out about the Signature conference here.
- SignVideo: Instant BSL video interpreting online
- 121 Captions: captioning and speech-to-text services
- Hearing Direct: Online hearing aids
- The National Theatre: Captioned and BSL accessible theatre in London
- Doncaster School for the Deaf: education for Deaf children
- SignLive: Online video interpreting for Deaf people
- RAD Tax Advice: Tax and Tax Credit info for Deaf people
- Deaf Independent: Deaf care and support services
- Signworld: online BSL learning and teaching materials
- Performance Interpreting: BSL interpreting at concerts
- National Deaf Children's Society: The leading charity for deaf children
- DCAL: Find out how to study at the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre, London
- cSeeker: Deaf-led educational communication support service
- Signed Culture: Advocating for BSL access to arts and culture
- Sarah Gatford: BSL interpreting, training and consultancy
- SignHealth: healthcare charity for Deaf people
- CJ Interpreting: communication support in BSL
- Sign Solutions:, language and learning
- Action Deafness Communications: sign language and Red Dot online video interpreting
- BSLcourses.co.uk: Provider of online BSL courses
- British Society for Mental Health and Deafness: Promoting positive mental health for deaf people
- deafPLUS: Money advice line in BSL
- Happy: Microsoft Office courses taught in BSL and SSE by a Deaf trainer – all abilities catered for
- Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton: education for Deaf children
- Lipspeaker UK: specialist lipspeaking support
- Ozen: Australian hearing aid specialists
- Elmfield School, Bristol: Inclusive education for Deaf pupils
- Exeter Deaf Academy: education for Deaf children