The Film That Lit My Fuse is a Deadline video series that aims to provide an antidote to headlines about industry uncertainty by swinging the conversation back to the creative ambitions, formative influences and inspirations of some of today’s great screen artists.
Every installment asks the same five questions. Today’s subject is Marlee Matlin, the Oscar-winning actress, author and advocate for the deaf. Matlin stars in the Sian Heder-directed CODA, the touching drama that Apple TV acquired in a $25 million record setting deal at January’s Sundance Film Festival, where the film won the Audience Award, Grand Jury Prize, Directing Prize, and a Special Jury Award for Best Ensemble. It just opened and is one of the films that will be buzzed about during awards season. It was also a film where most of its lead characters are deaf in a drama about a young woman, the only hearing person in her deaf family, who is relied upon for the family fishing business but has dreams of being a singer and feels guilt at the prospect of abandoning her family.
When Matlin won the Oscar and Golden Globe for the 1986 film Children of a Lesser God, she became at 21 the youngest actress to win the Oscar and the first deaf person to win. Matlin was born in Illinois and lost almost all her hearing at 18 months old due to illness and fevers, and is the only member of her family who is deaf. She has been a regular on such series as Picket Fences, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and The West Wing. Here, helped by her longtime interpreter Jack Jason, Matlin describes how The Wizard of Oz lit her fuse even though she was unable to absorb the dialogue, only the imagery. And how an exceptionally supportive actor — Henry Winkler — went above and beyond to make her feel welcome in the Hollywood acting fold.