Six-time Oscar nominee Jim Sheridan told Sky News he “no longer thinks it is fair” for “able-bodied” actors to play characters with disabilities.
Lewis Day won the first of his three Academy Awards for Best Actor for his performance in 1989 of Christy Brown, the Irish artist with cerebral palsy who painted and wrote with her left foot.
There have been criticism in recent years leading figures in the television and film industry in what is known as “cripping up”, which often involves non-disabled actors mimicking the physical characteristics of the impaired to play disabled characters.
Actress and comedian Sally Phillips said it was just as unacceptable as “blackface”.
Sheridan, who was nominated for an Oscar for Best Director for his work on My Left Foot, told Sky News: “I don’t think you can do it today. I don’t think you can do that without trying to find someone with a physical disability (to play the lead role).
“I think it’s a different world and you would be bound by duty. “
About non-disabled actors playing roles with disabilities, Sheridan added, “I don’t think it’s fair anymore. We have gone beyond that.
“In My Left Foot we had disabled kids in the movie and I could understand why Daniel stayed in character and never broke.
“He wanted to respect them so he stayed in his character the entire time for 20 weeks and that’s all he could go for as a able-bodied person playing a disabled person. “
Sheridan said picking an actor with cerebral palsy for the lead role of My Left Foot would be “great,” adding, “Who wouldn’t be up for this? Everyone should have access to their story told. “
But the Irish filmmaker said preventing non-disabled actors from portraying disabled characters would raise questions for the film and television industry.
“Do you have to have someone with a stutter to play me, Claudius?” He said, referring to the Roman Emperor who had a speech impediment.
Sheridan said he recently watched My Left Foot and still felt “really good” about the film.
“I think Daniel is amazing,” he said. “I think it has done a lot for people with disabilities. “
Sheridan, who also directed Day-Lewis in On Behalf of the Father and the Boxer, said he spoke to the star regularly and was “not really” surprised at his decision to retire from acting in 2017.
“He’s like that Daniel, he’s fed up,” Sheridan said.
“I think he will come back sometime. “
When asked if he could tempt Day-Lewis to come out of retirement, Sheridan replied, “First, I’d ask him if I’m going to annoy him by asking him.
“And if he said maybe not, then I would ask him.” “
Sheridan’s latest work saw him direct and present a new five-part series examining the brutal murder of French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier in West Cork, Ireland in December 1996.
English journalist Ian Bailey – the first reporter on the scene – was found guilty in absentia by a French court in 2019 and sentenced to 25 years in prison but has successfully fought repeated extradition requests.
Bailey still resides in West Cork and claims his innocence.
Murder At The Cottage: The Search For Justice For Sophie, a Sky Original documentary, airing today, with all episodes available to watch on Sky Crime and NOW TV.