Dwayne Johnson Blasted by Paralympian for Playing Amputee In Skyscraper: We Are Being ‘Sidelined’
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is coming under fire for playing a man with a prosthetic leg in his new movie, Skyscraper
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is coming under fire from a Paralympian for playing a former FBI agent with a prosthetic leg in his new movie, Skyscraper.
On Monday, Katy Sullivan — a bilateral above knee amputee and four-time Paralympic Games champion who has appeared as an actress on shows like NCIS: New Orleans and My Name Is Earl — wrote an open letter to Johnson published by Deadline, asking the 46-year-old action star to “stop saying ‘Yes’ to roles” that involve putting on “the mask of disability.”
“Individuals with disabilities make up almost 20 percent of the world’s population,” she wrote in her piece, explaining that of the 2 percent of characters on TV and in film who are written with disabilities, 95 percent of the roles are filled with able-bodied actors.
“Performers with disabilities [are] being sidelined so that able-bodied actors can ‘play at’ what it’s like to live life with a disability,” she said. “What we lose in that is the genuine, authentic perspective.”
In her article, Sullivan didn’t make mention of how Johnson’s character in the movie was inspired by real-life amputee Jeff Glasbrenner, whom producer Beau Flynn discovered on Real Sports. Flynn told The Hollywood Reporter that Glasbrenner “spent a lot of time” with Johnson on set to ensure a realistic portrayal.
Johnson promoted the movie alongside Glasbrenner on Good Morning America last week and shared a photo from them backstage on Instagram with the caption, “What a man.”
Reps for Johnson did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Johnson wrote that Skyscraper‘s casting “perpetuates the fact that we’re not given the agency to tell our own stories,” she wrote.
“This community of ours contains some of the strongest, most capable and tough individuals imaginable,” she wrote. “And the amount of determination they need to just deal with a world that wasn’t made with them in mind is staggering. Try navigating New York City in a wheelchair. Believe me, a movie set is a dream.”
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After comparing her cause to the outrage transgender actors felt over the casting of Scarlett Johansson as a trans character in Rug and Tug (which she has since dropped out of), Sullivan went on to say she had brought her cause up with high-level development executives, who told her that ‘a movie won’t get made without a name above the title.’ ”
Sullivan understood that, but suggested that actors with disabilities need to be given the opportunity to “get on that path in the first place.”
She pointed to how movies like Stronger, Me Before You and even Forrest Gump left her feeling “erased” and “Photoshopped out of existence.”
“I’m not only picking on you specifically. This is a much larger problem than just The Rock and Skyscraper,” Sullivan wrote. “It’s when we all band together to do the right thing for TRUE inclusion and diversity that we start to change not only the landscape of our entertainment, but through that, we change the perception of what individuals with disabilities are capable of doing (in general).”
Skyscraper is now in theaters.