Bryan Cranston is defending his role as a quadriplegic millionaire in The Upside.
The Emmy-winning actor sparked a backlash over his casting in the upcoming film, with some arguing the part should have gone to a disabled person. Cranston agrees that there should be more opportunities for such actors.
“We live in the world of criticism, if we’re willing to get up and try something, we have to also be willing to take criticism. We’re very aware of the need to expand the opportunities for people with disabilities,” he told the Press Association. “I think being cast in this role as a quadriplegic really came down to a business decision.”
Cranston’s co-star, Kevin Hart, concurred, saying that the film’s producers were looking for “box office success” with the casting. The comedian, who has been embattled in a controversy of his own regarding marginalized groups, added that Cranston’s performance sparking diversity discussions is a positive thing.
“I think having a conversation started is always a good thing,” he said. “In this particular case, bringing awareness to the fact that hey, we would love to see more disabled people given the opportunities to participate in the entertainment world, and potentially grow.”
Cranston described his situation as a “case of Catch-22.”
“As actors, we’re asked to be other people, to play other people,” he stated. “If I, as a straight, older person, and I’m wealthy, I’m very fortunate, does that mean I can’t play a person who is not wealthy, does that mean I can’t play a homosexual?”
He continued, “I don’t know, where does the restriction apply, where is the line for that? I think it is worthy for debate to discuss those issues.”
Cranston is hardly the first actor to face criticism over taking on the role of a disabled person — Jake Gyllenhaal and Dwayne Johnson received a similar backlash. In the 2017 film Stronger, Gyllenhaal played Jeff Bauman, a runner who lost both his legs in the Boston Marathon bombings, and Johnson played an amputee veteran in last summer’s film, Skyscraper.
The Upside is a remake of the 2011 French film The Intouchables, based on the life of businessman Philippe Pozzo di Borgo. It hits theaters Friday.
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