The film features a hearing actor playing a Deaf role, which was subject to criticism from Deaf people including Deaf actress Marlee Matlin and Deaf model Nyle DiMarco, debating that Leonetti didn’t consider the views of the Deaf community.
‘The Silence” movie, based on a book by Tim Levin is about “a deaf girl battling monsters,” says Leonetti to THR. “Sound — even dialogue — is the enemy.”
This movie shares an almost too identical storyline with John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” which premiered earlier this year. The noticeable difference is how the director Krasinski went out of his way to cast a Deaf actress; Millicent Simmonds instead of a hearing actress.
Read more: New horror film ‘A Quiet Place’ starring deaf actress Millicent Simmonds highlights various aspects of deaf culture
DiMarco, voiced his opinion about how there was proper representation in “A Quiet Place” and what a success it was.
Remember A Quiet Place? @johnkrasinski PUSHED to cast a DEAF actress, Millicent Simmonds.
Krasinski knew that proper representation would bring an extra depth to the film.
And he was right.
332.6 million USDhttps://t.co/NDphnvDBNU
— Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco) September 17, 2018
Having a deaf actress play a deaf role added more depth to the film and added more value to the production. Scott Beck, screenwriter of “A Quiet Place”, elaborated on how Millicent was valuable to everyone on set in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
“We always had a deaf character in the script ‘A Quiet Place’, but John really pushed for them to hire Millicent,” Beck said. “She came to set and taught everyone sign language. It was really amazing and brought an extra depth to the film.”
Leonetti cast Kiernan Shipka from Mad Men who is hearing, to play the Deaf girl in the film, in which she had to learn sign language.
“She’s flawless like she’s been signing her entire life,” Leonetti said to The Hollywood Reporter. “She seems to have an almost innate sense of what it’s like being a deaf person.”
DiMarco fired back to this quote, expressing his views on the difference between a hearing and a Deaf person using sign language.
And mastering sign language, which takes years and years, does not mean you’re flawlessly Deaf????? Extremely insulting.
To be Deaf is SO much more than sign language.
It’s an experience that no one can EVER understand. Not even hearing actors.
— Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco) September 17, 2018
Last year, “The Shape of Water” received similar criticism, where hearing actress Sally Hawkins learned ASL for the role.
Read more: Is Oscar winner ‘The Shape of Water’ spreading deaf awareness?
In the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of films featuring Deaf actors/actresses, such as “A Quiet Place”, “Wonderstruck”, “Baby Driver” which paves the way for the #DeafTalent movement and shows the Deaf community’s true potential.
Leonetti’s mentioned that he was inspired by other films featuring deafness such as “Children of a Lesser God”, which led to lead deaf actress of this film, Marlee Matlin, to point out the missing connection between the two films.
Mr. Leonetti. I’m an actor who is Deaf, cast in a Deaf role and received an Oscar for it. Yet, you quote my film as an inspiration for your film when you cast a hearing actor to play Deaf? Don’t you know how far authentic casting has come in 30 years? @THR https://t.co/Cixk5irhka
— Marlee Matlin (@MarleeMatlin) September 17, 2018
Perhaps he simply forgot about the Deaf side of it?
Not only are famous actors speaking out about this situation, but other members of the Deaf community are a part of the conversation too. This includes Deaf filmmaker Jules Dameron.
This is NOT okay. @kiernanshipka & John Leonetti & “The Silence” team need to listen to the Deaf community on this. #NotDeafTalent #DeafTalent #PassTheRole https://t.co/Sod04rwXYI
— jules dameron (@julesdameron) September 17, 2018
So, you were inspired by “The Tribe” (Ukrainian film) and “Children of a Lesser God”, while hearing-directed, had Deaf actors while copying the plot of “A Quiet Place”– which also had a Deaf actor.
— Andrew Parsons (@adrparsons) September 18, 2018
Using our Deafness to make your movie more appealing without casting an authentic #DeafTalent is churning. Representation in characters is what makes a story more appealing.
— Allison Friedman (@FriedmanAllison) September 18, 2018
Interestingly THR chose their headline as; “deafness is adding extra scares.” The same themes are found in films such as “The Silence”, “A Quiet Place” and “The Shape of Water.” They all feature elements of deafness all fit into the horror/thriller genre. Is this implying that deafness is scary?
Read more: Cool Halloween Hearing Aids Prove that Technology Isn’t Scary
Let’s hope there will be other films with #DeafTalent fitting into other genres, say comedy for example?
What do you think about a hearing actress becaststed for a Deaf role? Let us know in the comments.