Able-bodied actors playing disabled characters is nothing new.
David Lynch fans will recoil at such a notion, but it seems the BBC are planning to revisit 'The Elephant Man' with a remake starring Charlie Heaton more than thirty years after the Academy Award nominated drama first hit the big screen. Understandably, not everyone's happy about it.
Charlie Heaton at the London Fashion Awards
Apart from the fact that nothing could possibly come close to matching the genius of John Hurt as Joseph Merrick (or John Merrick, as he is renamed) in the 1980 black and white Lynchian epic, there are some who are deeply unhappy about the casting of the new project for other reasons.
People are reacting with outrage at the news that Charlie Heaton of 'Stranger Things' fame will be taking on the role, despite it essentially being a possible opening for an actual disabled actor who might otherwise struggle to fit the niche of your classic film or television star.
If you're not aware, the story of Joseph Merrick is the story of a man whose extreme physical deformities to the face and body rendered him something of a freak show attraction when he was alive in the 19th century, until he was rescued from a life of further ridicule by one Dr. Frederick Treves. He died at the age of just 27 from asphyxia relating to his deformities.
Since then his story has been told not only in film, but on the stage as well - initially as a play by Benard Pomerance in 1979, which was revisited in 2014 and 2015 by Scott Ellis with Bradley Cooper in the lead role.
But Phil Talbot of UK disability charity Scope is at odds with the decision to cast yet another able-bodied actor in this prominent role, claiming that a 'massive pool of disabled talent being overlooked'.
'It's disappointing... as it's one of the most recognisable films to portray a disabled character', he said in a statement. 'This is a missed opportunity but sadly, a lack of diversity in the industry is nothing new.'
'The creative industries should be embracing and celebrating difference and diversity, not ignoring it', he added.
The BBC has since denied this idea that they are among those 'ignoring' disabled talent, and claimed in their counter-statement that they are 'in the process of casting disabled actors in a variety of key roles'. Meanwhile, the new adaptation is set to hit screens in 2019.
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