Bryan Cranston defends playing a wheelchair user

LOS ANGELES • Bryan Cranston said he was entitled to play any character on screen after netizens slammed him for taking on the role of a wheelchair-using billionaire in the movie The Upside.

The actor also pinned the decision by the movie-makers to cast him as a "business" one.

"We're very aware of the need to expand the opportunities for people with disabilities (but) I think being cast in this role as a quadriplegic really came down to a business decision," he told the British Press Association.

He was adamant that actors should be free to stretch their abilities and not bow to politically correct mandates.

"If I, as a straight, older person, and I'm wealthy, I'm very fortunate, does that mean I can't play a person who is not wealthy, does that mean I can't play a homosexual?" he said.

Cranston was not fazed by the backlash, saying: "We live in the world of criticism; if we are willing to get up and try something, we have to also be willing to take criticism."

The Breaking Bad actor, who had lobbied before for greater opportunities for disabled actors, follows in the wake of Jake Gyllenhaal and Dwayne Johnson who were also roasted for taking on disabled character roles.

Gyllenhaal, in 2017 film Stronger, portrayed a man who lost both legs in the Boston Marathon bombings; while Johnson played a man with a prosthetic leg in 2018 action film Skyscraper.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2019, with the headline 'Bryan Cranston defends playing a wheelchair user'. Print Edition | Subscribe