The upcoming drama “Blind” is being criticized for casting Alec Baldwin, an able-bodied actor, as a blind man for the lead role.
The film, which will be released to viewers on July 14, sees Baldwin play a novelist who loses his wife and his eyesight in a fatal car crash. He later discovers his passion for life when he embarks on a love affair with a neglected socialite, played by Demi Moore, after her husband is indicted.
The trailer received condemnation from disability rights groups, and now the film’s director Michael Mailer is speaking about the decision to cast Alec Baldwin as the blind lead.
Writing in Deadline, Mailer references performances like Daniel Da-Lewis in “My Left Foot” and Jamie Foxx in “Ray”, saying, “Denigrating these actors and films is both ignorant and unfair.”
“In order to greenlight an independent film, one must attract a ‘name’ actor for a fraction of a studio paycheck if there is to be any chance at getting the film financed,” Mailer argues. “And while I’m sure there are many talented, vision-impaired actors out there, I do not currently know of any who have the marquee appeal needed to get even a modestly budgeted film made. Such are the realities of film financing today.”
“This situation also speaks to the larger forces governing political correctness, which have become so poisonous as to ossify any helpful and progressive cultural discourse,” Mailer goes on. “If political correctness can be used as a cudgel to attack the very freedoms of expression the United States so cherishes, how can such a notion protect against the clear and present countervailing forces of brutishness that succeed in destroying advances in human rights.”
“So rather than attempt to score cheap media points by going after talented actors like Alec Baldwin — who was simply excited by the professional challenge of playing a disabled character — why doesn’t the Ruderman Family Foundation focus on creating constructive dialogue and programs to advance actors who suffer from disabilities.”
“I applaud the good work they do. There are bigger fish to fry than my little film,” Mailer concludes.
Following the release of the film’s first trailer on Wednesday, Jay Ruderman, the president of The Ruderman Family Foundation, a leading organization in advocating for disability rights, criticized producers of the film for their casting choice in a statement shared to the L.A. Times.
“Alec Baldwin in ‘Blind’ is just the latest example of treating disability as a costume,” Ruderman reportedly said of the film, directed by Michael Mailer. “We no longer find it acceptable for white actors to portray black actors. Disability as a costume needs to also become universally unacceptable.”
In a study released by the foundation last summer, they revealed that while people with disabilities represent “nearly 20%” of the American population, “they are still significantly under-represented on television” with “more than 95%” of disabled characters played by able-bodied actors on screen.
When asked about the backlash, Baldwin’s rep tells ET Canada, “No comment.”