Famous people with disabilities, like actors and directors, are somewhat rare; the movie-going public likes its perfection. But some performers with disabilities have made quite a mark in their chosen craft. And, as former Mayor of New York David Dinkins said, the “fully abled” status of the rest of us is but temporary.
Marlee Matlin is the only deaf actress to win an Oscar for Best Actress. She won this award for "Children of a Lesser God." She not only had a disability but was only twenty one at the time as well. Besides her Oscar, she also won a Golden Globe award for "Children of A Lesser God," was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in "Reasonable Doubts" and has been nominated for four Emmys. She also had a recurring role as pollster and lobbyist Josephine Lucas in "The West Wing." Lucas, like Matlin, was also deaf. Matlin also played Mayor Laurie Bey in the CBS series "Picket Fences" from 1994 to 1996.
Harold Russell, who died in 2002, is also a famous person with a disability. A Canadian born World War II veteran, he won not one but two Oscars for his role as Homer Parrish in the William Wyler film, "The Best Years of Our Lives." He won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and a special Oscar for being an inspiration to veterans of the War. Russell lost both of his hands while he was making a training film for the Army, and his hands were replaced with hooks. He also appeared in the films "Inside Moves" and "Dogtown," as well as the TV series "Trapper John, MD" and "China Beach."
Peter Dinklage's disability is a form of dwarfism. He's only about four and half feet tall, but he’s drawing raves from critics for his performance as Tyrion Lannister in "Game of Thrones," based on George R.R. Martin’s series of novels, "A Song of Ice and Fire." He was also in episodes of "Nip/Tuck," "30 Rock," "Entourage" and other shows. Dinklage became famous after first big role as the lonely model railroad enthusiast Finbar McBride in "The Station Agent" in 2003. He’s also played Trumpkin in "The Chronicles of Narnia." He also starred with Will Farrell in "Elf," and was quite memorable as Richard III, who is often played as a person with a disability, during a production of Shakespeare’s play at the Public Theatre in 2004.
Peter Falk became famous for his role as Lieutenant Colombo during the eponymous, long running TV series, and he has had many, many roles since. These roles garnered him Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe nominations; he won the Emmy for his role as Colombo. Falk's disability occurred when he was three years old when his right eye was removed because of a cancerous tumor. He now wears a glass eye. Because of the glass eye, he was rejected by the Army for service in World War II, but this minor disability hasn’t stopped him in anything else.
Lou Ferrigno is an American actor and bodybuilder known for his role as the hulk on the CBS TV series "The Incredible Hulk," which ran from 1978 to 1982. He’s had many roles as an actor besides. Like Marlee Matlin, his disability is deafness, as he lost some of his hearing after having an ear infection when he was a baby.
- Arlene McKanic