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Bryan Cranston Slammed For Playing Disabled Man In 'The Upside'

Critics have hit out at Bryan Cranston for his decision to play a quadriplegic man in an upcoming film.

The Breaking Bad actor stars alongside comedian Kevin Hart in the remake of The Intouchables -- one the highest-grossing French language films in history.

In the new American version -- renamed The Upside -- Cranston plays Phillip Lacasse, a wealthy quadriplegic man who forms a friendship with his ex-con carer, Dell Scott (Hart).

Cranston has come under fire for taking on the role, with critics pointing out that the part should have gone to an actor with disability.

The performer has defended his decision to play the quadriplegic character -- reasoning that actors are "asked to play other people".

"If I, as a straight, older person, and I'm wealthy, I'm very fortunate, does that mean I can't play a person who is not wealthy, does that mean I can't play a homosexual?" he told the Press Association.

In an interview with Yahoo, Cranston added that the casting decision was all about "business" -- alluding to the the fact that studios will only invest in films when a big-name star attached.

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“The real business dynamic of that is the choice of the studios to try to see if they can make an investment into a film that could bring a return, so that wasn’t part of my decision making,” he explained.

“But I think it points out the lack of diversity in disabled actors and the lack of opportunity in order to be even considered to play the lead role in a film like this," he added.

“Are there any actors who have reached any kind of star status to be able to be considered? I think by not coming up with an answer to that is the answer to that. There is a dearth of opportunity for actors with a disability.”

Cranston added that he consulted with a number of quadriplegic people to gain insight into the role and was "very aware that an able-bodied person is sitting in a wheelchair".

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But critics have raised the point that Cranston can't simply acknowledge the lack of diversity in Hollywood and then take on role portraying a person with disability anyway.

The actor's rationale has been slammed by comedian and disability advocate Maysoon Zayid as "indefensible".

"At least Bryan Cranston was honest," Zayid wrote on Twitter. "He doesn't give a hoot that he is causing harm to the #disabled community with his offensive and cartoonish #TropicThunder like take on visible #disability.

"His analogy suxx too visible disability is not like acting poor," she said of his comments about playing an underprivileged character.

Writer and director Domenick Evans has also criticised Cranston's defence -- calling out the actor's Upside role.

"...As a wheelchair user I could never play Bryan Cranston, so why the hell can he play someone like me?" he wrote on Twitter.

"That's the thing people don't understand," Evans wrote. "Disabled actors are not allowed to play non disabled characters, and in some cases, we could never play someone nondisabled.

The promotion of the film has sparked debate about improving representation in Hollywood -- not just through the casting process but in the way stories about people with disability are told.

Main Image: AAP.