Working in batch sunrise, Director Andrew Bird's compellingly atmospheric neo-noir vampire thriller, released in theaters and digital/on-demand on January 19, is a welcome departure from veteran actor Kurt Yeager's routine.
A former professional BMX rider and X Games athlete, Yaeger is a below-the-knee amputee after losing his leg in a serious motorcycle accident in 2006. Despite suffering a life-changing setback, she continued to enjoy her acting career. in etc NCISNetflix sci-fi extravaganza Another life and FX's top-rated TV series Sons of Anarchy. His film credits include UK Comedy Festival Directed by Ian Morris (2018) and more recently he starred Beanie Bubble (2023) with Zach Galifianakis and Elizabeth Banks.
Defined by disability
With sleek looks, a chiseled physique and an outspoken personality with an unflinching confidence, Yaeger is the intimidating, situationally self-absorbed figure Hollywood sets up for its many flawed characters. However, that was not always reflected in the way he was treated on set during many productions.
„In other projects I've been involved in, people have tried to force my disability to be perfect,” Yeager explains during an interview.
It feels like being told, „Oh your character is an amputee, so you must be a lame cripple, you must be in pain, you must be sad.” I usually ask them how long the character has been an amputee and they say ten years. I tell them he would have adjusted by now, but they can't handle it because they want you to play what they think the reality of being disabled is.
Yaeger continues, „It's like they're playing these tropes into the character and focusing on the leg because maybe they think it's about me. Sometimes, I feel like the whole reason I'm there is my prosthetic leg, and it's the star leg, not me.”
At the Lionsgates SunriseYager plays Gillespie, a small-town cop at odds with Alex Pettyfer, an ex-cop turned vampire out for revenge, and Guy Pearce, a villainous demagogue with a lust for power and control.
Wrapped within this fantasy horror are themes of redemption and the character of Pettifer, who is bereft of a Chinese immigrant family facing alienation in a hostile and unforgiving land.
For the film, Yager felt that his acting skills contributed more than his disparity in what he describes as a feature with a perfect balance between the size of the production and the importance of his role. :
“I like to think that they liked me for my acting skills. Even though they knew I had a prosthetic leg, the character was not written as disabled. It never came across as negative. Other actors said I changed their perspective. Thinking disability is often about being surprised when this one thing turns out to be very different from what you thought.
Yager likes to see her positive experiences in acting and filming Sunrise Replicated to other trans people in the film and television industry and advocate for improved disability inclusion within the gilded environs of Hollywood. She is a member of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists Committee on Performers with Disabilities and has a particular interest in encouraging actors with disabilities to play roles not specified as disabled.
With this in mind, he was recently instrumental in establishing the XA Endowment Fund. The new fund is a philanthropic initiative with an advisory board of Hollywood heavyweights that aims to get talent with disabilities into film and television at the earliest possible stage by leveraging opportunities for capital funding.
While Hollywood's mainstream disability portrayal and emerging talent with disabilities wax and wane every year, Yeager feels things are moving in the right direction as decision makers in the creative industries increasingly recognize its importance.
„There's so much pressure these days to do something, and yet, when people do it, they do it wrong and then throw their hands up thinking they shouldn't have done it, but they're not listening. The right voices,” Yager says.
He continues, “People who have 15 or 20 years of experience in the film industry and know how it works are handicapped. Now,is has has has has been going on in the past, that person can´t stay that far in their career due to difficulties in getting a job, but they still do it for 20 years. We need to bring these types of people and put them on a higher path. We need people who know the business as a whole because they work on different sides and really understand how the sausage is made. Ultimately, the right voices are the people who know how to explain the powers in the right vocabulary, so the inclusion of disability is valuable both to the bottom line and to the storytelling.
Likewise, such individuals must be proactive and constantly drum up and bring themselves to the fore, which is why Kurt Yeager doesn't plan on taking a back seat anytime soon.
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