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Paralympian actress blasts Johnson for playing amputee in 'Skyscraper'

Dwayne Johnson stars as a former FBI hostage rescue team leader who now does security in "Skyscraper."

UNIVERSAL PICTURES/TNS

By KATE FELDMAN | New York Daily News | Published: July 17, 2018

An actress who had her legs amputated above the knee called out Dwayne Johnson for taking a role away from an amputee in his newest movie.

In "Skyscraper," The Rock plays Will Sawyer, a former FBI hostage rescue team leader who now does security for skyscrapers. After losing a leg in a mission, Sawyer uses a prosthetic that allows him to continue doing his job.

But Katy Sullivan, who has appeared in shows including "My Name Is Earl," "Last Man Standing" and "NCIS: New Orleans" and has also competed and won at the Paralympic Games, said that role should have gone to an amputee, not just someone playing one.

"Individuals with disabilities make up almost 20 percent of the world’s population. We are the largest minority and the most marginalized group in Hollywood, according to a 2017 study conducted by Fox, CBS and the Ruderman Family Foundation (an organization I know you are aware of and engaging with now). The study found that in last year’s TV season, less than 2 percent of characters were written to have a disability and of THOSE characters, 95 percent of the roles were filled with able-bodied actors," she wrote in an open letter.

"While I am thrilled that a film about a kick-ass veteran and father (who is a unilateral below-the-knee amputee) got green-lit in the first place, the problem is this perpetuates the fact that we’re not given the agency to tell our own stories."

Sullivan cited the recent outrage over "Rub and Tug," the movie about a transgender character that Scarlett Johansson dropped out of amid complaints that she, similarly, was taking a role away from a trans actor.

"This is also the truth for performers with disabilities being sidelined so that able-bodied actors can "play at" what it’s like to live life with a disability. What we lose in that is the genuine, authentic perspective. There is a bit of a misconception that a performer with a disability wouldn’t be able to handle the grueling schedule of a feature film," she wrote.

"This community of ours contains some of the strongest, most capable and tough individuals imaginable. 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."

Just in the last few years, she said, able-bodied actors have played amputees in movies including "Stronger," "Me Before You" and "Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot."

"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)," she wrote.

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