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Dwayne Johnson pays tribute to amputees after criticism for 'Skyscraper' casting

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is paying tribute to the amputee community after facing criticism for his role in his latest action movie “Skyscraper.”          

Johnson surprised amputees at NYU Langone Health’s Limb Loss Program at the Rusk Rehabilitation Institute after a screening of the action film Sunday.          

"Unforgettable time spent with amputees, Dr’s & friends showing them SKYSCRAPER. Thank you for the love and support of our film and me playing an amputee,” Johnson tweeted to his 12 million followers.

Johnson plays a below-the-knee amputee veteran who must rescue his family from a burning skyscraper.

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The casting of an able-bodied person for the role prompted Katy Sullivan, an actress and Paralympian, to compare the Rock’s role to Scarlett Johansson's controversial casting as a transgender man in "Rub & Tug."

In an open letter shared on Deadline, Sullivan wrote to Johnson: “My request is for you to stop saying ‘Yes’ to roles like the one in that movie." She said about Johansson,  who withdrew from the role after her casting was met with heavy criticism from the LGBTQ community on social media: "The outcry is about inclusion. TRUE inclusion."          

To Sullvan's point, there is a long history of able-bodied actors playing amputees in Hollywood, as recently as Jake Gyllenhaal in "Stronger," Ansel Elgort in "The Fault in Our Stars" and as famously as Gary Sinise in "Forrest Gump."

"Something that made me feel so hopeful, at one point, ultimately made me feel even more alone in the world," Sullivan said about assuming that Sinise was an amputee, then discovering he wasn't. "That movie came out in 1994, almost 25 years ago, and very little has changed in Hollywood since then."          

Despite Hollywood making a shift toward authentic casting and inclusion, people with disabilities remain the most marginalized group in Hollywood, according to a study by the Ruderman Family Foundation.

“This is … 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,” Sullivan continued in her open letter. “What we lose in that is the genuine, authentic perspective.”          

Sullivan acknowledges Johnson is not entirely to blame, but asks him to help advocate for inclusion. And it seems he took some of her advice to heart in his tweet.  

Johnson ended his note to the Limb Loss Program with, "But most importantly, thank you for an amazing and enlightening dialogue we were able to have after the movie."

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