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Actress criticised for playing deaf role in new film

Julianne Moore who regarded the role as a great privilege is criticised by some in the Deaf community

Friday 19 May
Actress criticised for playing deaf role in new film

Editor - May 19 at 07:00

For a few brief moments on a terrace atop the Palais at the Cannes Film Festival Thursday, there were as many people speaking American Sign Language as there were people speaking French. The cast of Wonderstruck, the Todd Haynes movie which premieres at the festival Thursday night, had gathered—including the movie’s young star, a deaf child actor named Millicent Simmonds, and Julianne Moore, who plays a deaf character as well.
For cinephiles, Wonderstruck is a chance to see frequent collaborators Haynes and Moore team up again after the movies I’m Not There, Far From Heaven, and Safe, this time for a visually inventive, time-hopping fable. For the deaf community, the movie, which is based on Brian Selznick’s 2011 young adult novel, carries another layer of meaning as a rare story featuring multiple deaf lead characters. The story follows the journeys of two lonely deaf children living 50 years apart, Simmonds’s Rose in 1927 and Oakes Fegley’s Ben in 1977. In the deaf community, some have raised questions about Moore, a hearing actress, taking the part of a deaf adult in the film. On Twitter, some protested her casting using the hashtag #deaftalent.
Moore was sensitive to the critique, telling Vanity Fair she prepared for Wonderstruck by studying ASL, reading books and watching movies on deaf culture, and attending a deaf poetry slam. But she conceded there were still some aspects of deaf culture that would remain elusive to her. “How do you understand a culture?” Moore said. “If you’re a hearing person who grows up in deaf culture, or if you’re a deaf person who grows up in a hearing culture, then you’ve seen both. For me, as a hearing person who grew up in a hearing world, I’m not ever going to fully understand that. But what they allowed me to do was to stand in the doorway between those rooms and observe them both. It was an incredible privilege.”
Wonderstruck, which Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions will release in October, cuts between 1927 and 1977. In 1927, Simmonds’s young Rose runs away from home to pursue her idol, silent-film actress Lillian Mayhew—a second role in the film played by Moore, in a performance inspired by Lillian Gish. To prepare for this portion of the film, Moore watched the 1928 Gish movie The Wind and the 1928 King Vidor movie The Crowd for inspiration. Here, too, the actress had to rely on communicating visually, rather than through dialogue. “[Gish] as an actress was so incredibly expressive and unusual,” Moore said “The [silent] genre is fascinating, because it allows you to put a lens on human experience. Then you focus on what’s universal within that.”
Source:Vanity Fair/Cannes Film Festival

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