Initially reported by Deadline, Heder will direct a biopic on noted disability rights activist Judith Heumann, based on Heumann’s memoir. The deal is part of a package through Apple Original Films with Heder already signed to the company in a multi-year agreement. Actress Ali Stroker, who became the first disabled person to win a Tony for her 2019 performance in “Oklahoma” on Broadway, is reportedly being considered for the leading role.
Heumann’s memoir, entitled “Being Heumann,” documents her life and her journey as a disabled rights advocate. She contracted polio in 1949 and became a wheelchair user. From there she became a leading advocate, including organizing the 504 Sit-In in San Francisco, which was a landmark moment for disability rights. You can see the sit-in, as well as Heumann as a young woman, in the Oscar-nominated Netflix documentary “Crip Camp.”
Heder will also produce the film with David Permut through his Permut Presentations, as well as Heumann’s managers John W. Beach and Kevin Cleary of Gravity Squared Entertainment. Heumann and her co-author Kristen Joiner will be executive producers. Alex Astrachan is co-producer.
Heder’s feature “CODA” tells the story of a young girl who is the only hearing member in a predominately deaf family. Her dream is to attend music school but it comes at the risk of leaving her family behind. The movie was a smash out of Sundance, winning four major prizes including the Grand Jury and Audience awards, and started a bidding war before being purchased by Apple.
Too often, biopics on people with disabilities have fallen toward the overtly inspirational or tragic, but Heder’s film could continue the trend of upending disabled stereotypes in film. Not only is Heumann one of the leading voices in disability activism, to be played by a disabled Tony winner shows there are disabled figures and talent to work in unison.
There’s no set release date for the biopic nor an indication of when filming will start. This should give people plenty of time to learn up on Heumann’s remarkable accomplishments.