David Proud, who has broken ground as a disabled actor playing a wheelchair-using character on EastEnders, is now set for another first by playing an able-bodied character in psychological thriller iWitness.
Proud, who has Spina Bifida, stars in the project about miscommunication and distorted perceptions. “To me, iWitness is a game changer,” the actor said. “It is a British film making first. To have produced and starred in a film that I would have never even been auditioned for fills me with so much pride. It’s a gem of a film, but it’s the symbolism that I’m most proud of.”
104 Films, which champions film productions involving cast and crew with diabilities, produces. Steve Rainbow writes and directs.
Rainbow, who is based in the West Midlands, said: “The inspiration for the plot came from the opening of Rear Window but iWitness is more about modern day confusion caused by lack of information.”
Of Proud, Rainbow said: “I had worked with David before and was impressed by his considerable acting talent, but also his remarkable abilities as both an actor and individual, despite being born with Spina Bifida. I didn’t want to frame out David’s person behind lots of close-ups. I wanted the camera to be as wide and lingering for as much of the film as possible. I realised that casting a disabled actor to play an able bodied part - and a lead character at that - may well pile additional work on top of an already heavy schedule. However, that has proven not to be the case. David was superb and has proven how versatile he is as an actor.
“It would be ironic if any able bodied actors complained that I had discriminated against them by choosing a disabled actor to play the part of an able bodied character. But, as David knows only too well, it is often disabled actors who find it difficult to be cast in mainstream television and theatre. However, all too often able bodied actors are cast as disabled characters.”
Justin Edgar, producer at 104 Films, added: “Able-bodied actors playing disabled parts is something we see a lot of and it is a hot topic amongst the disabled acting fraternity. When Steve pitched this idea of iWitness to us we immediately saw the potential not just to make a great film but also to make a statement. This is the kind of groundbreaking attitude that 104 Films was established for; to try to inspire. And David is the man to pull it off so wonderfully.”
Proud said: “Being an actor is hard, making a living as a disabled actor is incredibly difficult. There simply aren’t enough parts to sustain one disabled artist, let alone the growing number of disabled artists who are, like me, trying to survive in an already competitive industry. I’ve been blessed to have developed a CV I’m very proud of. But even with acting, writing and producing among my credits, I am constantly questioning if the industry has a place for me.”
The film’s trailer can be seen here.