Matt Hamill is a rising star in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. Hamill, who won the hearts of millions of fans after getting robbed of a victory against Michael Bisping by ringside judges at UFC 78 and who is coming off of a thrilling and decisive victory over solid veteran Tim Boetsch, has been recently approached by Hollywood producers about bringing a version of his heartwarming life story to the silver screen.
Hamill, however, who is deaf from birth, has run into some serious controversy within the deaf community over the casting of a non-deaf actor to play the lead role in the film. Hamill recently addressed the controversy with the following statement:
It has recently come to my attention that there is a bit of controversy surrounding the movie “Hamill” which is based on my life story. Apparently there are some members of the deaf community who feel strongly that a deaf actor should play the role of me. Two casting calls, one at Gallaudet and one at my alma matter RIT, have been canceled in protest.
I want everyone to know, I respect the fact that we all want to celebrate deaf culture. I celebrate deaf culture as much as anyone. However, it was my choice to have Eben Kostbar play me. Eben, along with Joe McKelheer, are the reason this project even exists. They are the ones who wrote it, they are the ones who put everything on the back burner to make this project a reality.
My management team has put together a contract that gives me complete control over the final product. It’s important to me that my story be told in a manner that I want it to be told. Eben has gone above and beyond preparing for this role. He is already fluent in ASL and actually better than most of the professional interpreters that I work with. He has dedicated himself to this in a way that has inspired me. He has spent a lot of time with me, my family and friends and knows me better than any deaf actor I know of. This is why I stand firm on my decision to have Eben play me.
I insisted all other parts be played by deaf actors and I promise this film will make the deaf community proud. It’s unfortunate that there is always a small portion of the deaf community that feels the need to protest the most trivial things in life.
A few months ago, I was bombed by this same portion of the deaf community for not using sign language in one of my interviews. Fact is, I use sign language in every single interview, and was using it in that interview. The camera was zoomed in on my face and you couldn’t see my hands. These things happen. I want to say thank you to all of you who continue to support me in my career and the amazing opportunities that have come from it.
The movie is about my life and I believe I have earned the respect to decide how I want it told. Eben Kostbar will be playing the role of me and I am certain he will be fantastic. The decision has been made and is final. I hope we can put this issue to rest. I believe there are a lot more important issues in the world.
Please visit MattHamill.com for more.