Actor Bryan Cranston is defending himself for… acting? There has been plenty of controversy surrounding the Breaking Bad alum’s latest role as a paralyzed billionaire in The Upside. In the new flick — set to hit theaters on Jan. 11 — the 62-year-old plays a disabled man named Phillip Lacasse who hires a formerly incarcerated man, portrayed by Kevin Hart, to be his caretaker. The film is a remake of the 2011 French movie The Intouchables, and it was inspired by the life of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo. But instead of being able to positively promote his film, Bryan is now defending his casting as many people have said a disabled actor should have played the role.
“We live in the world of criticism,” Bryan recently told reporters at the British Press Association. “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.” The Oscar-nominated star also said that his choice to play the role “really came down to a business decision.”
Bryan continued, “As actors, we’re asked to be other people, to play other people. 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? 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.”
This controversy really came to the forefront after Jay Ruderman, the president of The Ruderman Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization focusing on the inclusion of disabled individuals, had this to say: “While we don’t know the auditioning history of The Upside, casting a non-disabled actor to play a character with a disability is highly problematic and deprives performers with disabilities the chance to work and gain exposure.” Ruderman went on to add, “Non-disabled actors are routinely cast to play characters with disabilities, while actors with disabilities are rarely even auditioned for minor parts. This practice amounts to discrimination and we are working with Hollywood advocates to change that.”
The controversy has only brought more attention to the film, and it needs the help since it currently sports a 50 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The Upside is out on Jan. 11.