‘Elephant Man’ Series Slammed for Not Casting Disabled Actor

Scope leaders feel producers should have offered the role of the deformed 19th century freak show star-turned-high society figure to a disabled actor.

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Officials at a leading British disability charity have attacked BBC bosses for recruiting an able-bodied actor to play Joseph Merrick in an upcoming adaptation of “The Elephant Man”.

Scope leaders feel producers should have offered the role of the deformed 19th century freak show star-turned-high society figure to a disabled actor before recruiting “Stranger Things” star Charlie Heaton.

Scope’s head of communications Phil Talbot tells Press Association, “It’s disappointing that a disabled actor has not been cast in the remake of “The Elephant Man” as it’s one of the most recognisable films to portray a disabled character.

“This is a missed opportunity but sadly, a lack of diversity in the industry is nothing new. Disabled actors still often face huge barriers to break in to the business… There is a massive pool of disabled talent being overlooked.

“The creative industries should be embracing and celebrating difference and diversity, not ignoring it.”

The late John Hurt previously portrayed Merrick in David Lynch’s 1980 film adaptation of Sir Frederick Treves’ book and the tragic character has also been performed by David Bowie, Mark Hamill, and most recently Bradley Cooper in his West End theatre debut.

Confirming the role in the latest adaptation, Heaton said, “I’m extremely excited and honoured to be given the opportunity to take on the portrayal of Joseph Merrick in the BBC’s adaption of “The Elephant Man”. This is such a special role and a challenge for any actor.

“Joseph has such an incredible story and I can’t wait to go on this journey and bring him to life.”

Richard Laxton is directing the mini-series, which will be shot in Wales ahead of a 2019 air date.

Merrick, who suffered from a condition which left him with monstrous deformities, escaped the workhouses of Victorian England to perform as part of touring freak shows. Treves, a doctor, befriended him in 1884, and introduced him to high society. Merrick died in 1890, aged 27.

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