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The Inspiring Stories of the Only Three Disabled Actors to Have Won Oscars

The Inspiring Stories of the Only Three Disabled Actors to Have Won Oscars

The Inspiring Stories of the Only Three Disabled Actors to Have Won Oscars – #Inspiring #Stories #Disabled #Actors #Won #Oscars Diversity in Hollywood is a work in progress. Aside from white, able-bodied, heterosexual males, for one prejudicial reason or another, those who don’t fall into that slim bracket have had to face many an obstacle. The Academy Awards have a checkered history of discriminatory practices that have created barriers to those whether it be based on their race, gender, or disability. The #OscarsSoWhite Movement highlighted the systemic issue of racial discrimination within Hollywood, and specifically concerned the Academy Awards and the lack of Black representation, leading to several big names boycotting the annual prize-giving. While the film industry has certainly made inroads when it comes to recognizing black and multi-ethnic talent, those with disabilities are still yet to be subject to such acceptance, inclusivity, and acknowledgment at internationally prestigious award ceremonies. Since the Oscars’ conception in 1929, there have been 93 winners in each original category, yet startlingly, only three have actually been disabled. Since Harold Russell’s unprecedented double award triumph in 1947, there have been countless films that have addressed the issues of disability, with many in receipt of critical acclaim at the Academy Awards, from recent flicks like CODA, The Theory of Everything, Sound of Metal, and The Shape of Waterto Forrest Gump, My Left Foot, and Ray. Bar one (CODA) from the previously mentioned actually stars those with real-life disabilities in them. Russell was the first actor to win two Academy Awards for the same performance, as well as the maiden torchbearer for disabled Oscar winners, for his role in the trailblazing 1946 post-war film The Best Years of Our Lives. A former market stall worker, Russell enlisted in the US war effort in 1941, after being so touched by President Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech that he signed up within 24 hours. Tasked with Army Instructor responsibilities, Russell was entrusted with training the 13th Airborne Division prior to their deployment. During bomb disposal training, a faulty explosive detonated while in Russell’s hands, causing irreparable damage that resulted in Russell undergoing a double amputation of his lower arms. Said to have fallen into a deep depression, 30-year-old Russell was at a painstaking crossroads at a time in his life that he should really have been relishing. After declining the offer from physicians of state-of-the-art prosthetics, he opted for a less aesthetically pleasing, more practical alternative. Taking a leaf out of Captain Hook and Edward Scissorhands’ notebook, his choice of two hooks was a decision that would ultimately change his life. After featuring in a United States War Department documentary, Diary of a SergeantWilliam Wyler (The Best Years of Our Lives’ director) was so taken with Russell’s positivity, and attitude to his disability, that he approached him to be in his upcoming feature, where he’d be depicting the lives of soldiers returning home from the Second World War, and wanted to achieve this in the most authentic way possible. The Best Years of Our Lives concerns the stories of three former members of the military who return home from war and are expected to seamlessly slot back into everyday life. Due to various issues regarding their personal battles with accepting their permanently impaired physical and mental health, as well as the ever-changing social-political and economic climate around them, the men are forced into the painful process of soul-searching. Russell plays Homer Parrish, coming home to his fiancé without his hands after losing them at war, where he struggles to accept that she’s disgusted by the way he looks. Following Harold Russell’s win in 1949, a disabled Oscar winner wouldn’t come for another 37 years. In 1986, it was another first, with Marlee Mattlin winning the Award for Best Actress, the first disabled woman to win an Academy Award, and the first person to win one for Best Actress. The deaf performer claimed the accolade for her portrayal of Sarah Norman in Randa Haines’ film, Children of a Lesser God. After several illnesses during her infancy, Matlin was rendered almost completely deaf by the time she was two. As a child, Matlin would regularly perform at ICODA (International Center of Deafness and the Arts). Demonstrating clear signs of promise, it was here that Marlee was spotted by fellow actor, comedian, and Director, Henry Winkler, which subsequently led to her landing the role of Sarah Norman, a young woman whose disability means she avoids speaking to people until she falls for a hearing man. Debuting in this romantic drama, Matlin consequently becIn[1986]Matlin became the youngest actor ever to win Best Actress at the Academy Awards at[21]years of age, a feat still yet to be beaten by either sex. Since 1986, Matlin has appeared in both Film and Television, and in 2021 featured as Jackie Rossi in the Oscar-winning Apple TV+ movie, CODA.

At just nine months old, Troy Kotsur‘s parents and doctors determined that he was deaf. Thereon, the future theater, television, and film star would go on to communicate in sign language. Showing a keen interest in theatrics, Kotsur enrolled in the National Theater of the Deaf, plying his trade in one of the most prestigious disabled acting groups in the country. As a hot prospect in deaf theater, Kotsur didn’t receive his break in film until 2007, and even then Joel Schumacher’s critical flop starring Jim Carrey, The Number 23. Between 2007 and 2021, Kotsur’s appearance in films was sporadic. And it was only in Apple TV+’s CODA alongside Matlin, that his talents as a deaf actor were truly recognized, winning Best Supporting Actor for his role as Frank Rossi. WATCH NOW
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Q: How old was Hilary Swank when she won the Oscar?

The Inspiring Stories of the Only Three Disabled Actors to Have Won Oscars

The Oscars have recognized some of the most iconic performances in film for over 90 years, but only three disabled actors have ever won this prestigious award. The inspiring stories of these three remarkable individuals are a testament to their dedication and perseverance, demonstrating that despite physical challenges, great achievements can be made. Read on to discover more about these incredible actors and their inspiring stories.

Hilary Swank

Hilary Swank was born with a congenital heart condition, which meant she was often in and out of hospital during her early life. Despite this, she pursued her passion for acting and won her first Oscar at just 27 years old. Swank won the award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her work in the movie Boys Don’t Cry.

Danièle Rivière

Danièle Rivière became the second disabled actor to ever be awarded an Oscar when she won the Best Actress in a Supporting Role in 1962 for her work in the movie Sundays and Cybele. Rivière suffered from muscular dystrophy and refused to let her disability define her; instead, she followed her dreams and made history.

Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg became the third and most recent disabled actor to win an Oscar, when she received the Best Actress in a Supporting Role in 1991 for her work in the movie Ghost. Goldberg was born with asthma and as a young woman, she was often troubled with health problems. This, however, did not stop her from becoming a huge success in the entertainment industry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who are the three disabled actors to have won an Oscar?

A: The three disabled actors to have won an Oscar are Hilary Swank, Danièle Rivière and Whoopi Goldberg.

Q: What performance earned Hilary Swank an Oscar?

A: Hilary Swank won an Oscar for her performance in the movie Boys Don’t Cry.

Q: What performance earned Whoopi Goldberg an Oscar?

A: Whoopi Goldberg won an Oscar for her performance in the movie Ghost.


The inspiring stories of the only three disabled actors to have ever won an Oscar are a testament to their commitment, persistence and talent. Hilary Swank, Danièle Rivière and Whoopi Goldberg all overcame physical hurdles to achieve greatness, inspiring others to believe that despite any physical challenges, great things can be achieved.

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Samantha Irby

The most popular Samantha Irby, author of "We Are Never Going to Meet in Real Life," has a blog called bitches gotta eat. She does not have a social media account. A Martian 👽
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