Director Michael Mailer found himself at the center of a controversy surrounding his indie film, Blind, starring Alec Baldwin as a man who loses his sight in a car crash. The Ruderman Family Foundation, an organization of disability advocates, denounced the work for casting Baldwin instead of a blind actor. Mailer has since broke his silence on the matter and disagreed with this reasoning in a new guest column, titled “Where Does Political Correctness End and Cultural Fascism Begin?”
Referencing the foundation’s accusation of “crip-face” (similar to “blackface”), the filmmaker argued on Deadline that such an outlook discredits performances like Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot, Jamie Foxx in Ray, and Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything.
“Denigrating these actors and films is both ignorant and unfair,” Mailer wrote. “I have always said no movie — particularly an independent one — ever wants to get made. It must be dragged, kicking and screaming, into production. 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. 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,” he continued. “If [the foundation’s president] Jay Ruderman had his way, none of the above-mentioned movies, including mine, would ever have been produced; these inspiring stories that delve into the aspirations and empowerment of the disabled, would not be told, and our cultural horizons would surely be dimmer.”
Mailer also took aim at “the larger forces governing political correctness,” which he deems “poisonous.” Noting how his father, Norman Mailer, wrote books set in various lands like Germany and Egypt, he questioned, “did he have no business writing about ancient Egypt and Hitler’s youth?”
While Mailer does “applaud the good work” of The Ruderman Family Foundation, he called their claims an “attempt to score cheap media points by going after talented actors like Alec Baldwin” and suggested they “focus on creating constructive dialogue and programs to advance actors who suffer from disabilities.”
He added, “As a producer-director, I would welcome an expanded pool of talent and greater opportunity to work with the disabled. (In fact, a number of disabled people were cast in speaking and background roles in Blind.)”
Read Mailer’s fuller response at Deadline.
Blind is currently playing in select theaters. Ruderman said of the film, “Alec Baldwin in Blind is just the latest example of treating disability as a costume. We no longer find it acceptable for white actors to portray black characters. Disability as a costume needs to also become universally unacceptable.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article misnamed The Ruderman Family Foundation.