Helen Keller movie casts deaf Quiet Place star Millicent Simmonds as disability activist
A Quiet Place actress Millicent Simmonds will portray deaf, blind, and disability rights activist Helen Keller in a new biopic film.
The 18-year-old deaf performer, who rose to prominence at the center of Todd Haynes' 2017 fantasy Wonderstruck, will lead Keller through Helen & Teacher as the film follows her throughout the early 1900s while she navigates her education at Radcliffe College of Harvard University. There, she rapidly expands her worldview as quickly as she expands her relationships — particularly the one she shares with her conservative translator, Anne Sullivan (Marvelous Mrs. Maisel star Rachel Brosnahan), who's hesitant to embrace Keller's new personal and social awakening.
"Most people only know of Helen Keller's story from when she was a child. Helen & Teacher will look at her as a young adult when she developed a radical, world-changing political voice," writer-director Wash Westmoreland (Still Alice) told The Hollywood Reporter, which also reported that Simmonds is a distant cousin of Keller's. "Today, when some TikTok threads dispute Helen Keller's achievements and even her existence, it is time for a film that shows her relevance, her brilliance, and her unbreakable spirit."
Laetitia Mikles and Westmoreland wrote the script together, with consultation from a team at the Helen Keller National Center for Youth and Adults.
Since rising to prominence opposite Julianne Moore in Wonderstruck, Simmonds landed a lead role in John Krasinski's horror blockbuster A Quiet Place in 2018, and later reprised her role as the deaf daughter of characters played by Krasinksi and Emily Blunt in the film's 2021 sequel A Quiet Place II. The film went on to become one of the most successful theatrical releases of the pandemic era, grossing just under $300 million at the domestic box office — $160 million of which was earned from domestic ticket sales.
"When I heard that it was much more action-oriented and so emotionally intense, of course I had to do it," Simmonds previously told People Now. "John, I love the way he directs, he comes in willing to explore and he's always asking the talent, 'What would you do in this situation? What feels real to you?'"
Principal photography on Helen & Teacher is slated to begin in 2022, with a distributor and release date yet to be announced.
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