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"Wonderstruck" Magically Brings Two Different New York Eras to Life

Could “Wonderstruck” actress Millicent Simmons earn the first Oscar nomination for a deaf person since 1986?

by Hope Schreiber

by Hope Schreiber

Wonderstruck, director Todd Haynes' newest film, was a film festival darling at Cannes, and is set to receive even more attention as the Centerpiece of the New York Film Festival next month.

The movie, an adaptation of a book of the same name by Hugo author Brian Selznick, takes place in two different eras where New York City was undoubtedly effervescent — 1927 and 1977.It chronicles two deaf children, Rose (Millicent Simmonds), who longs to know more about a famous actress (Julianne Moore), and Ben (Oakes Fegley), who simply wants to find his father.

The Carol director treats Wonderstruck as a love letter to silent movies, as he regards silent films to be one of the "most sophisticated moments in the history of film,” and Simmonds’ story in the film reflects that mindset. 

This will be Simmonds’ (who is deaf) first role, and it's her connection to the character that initially drew her to the script. She told Entertainment Weekly, “I felt I could really relate to Rose and feeling isolated and alone. I feel that around hearing people everyday. I’m grateful he chose me to play Rose. And I think it means a lot to the deaf community for them to see someone deaf play a deaf character.”

The 14-year-old actress was performing Shakespeare in her Utah school drama class before leaving Haynes star struck on set in New York City, particularly during a scene in which her character is an observer to other girls laughing and talking to each other.

Haynes said, “I’ll never have an explanation for how Millie communicated that feeling of being left out, which everybody has experienced, especially in childhood, with such economy and subtlety and confidence. You can’t do that unless you know how to communicate with the world around you.”

After the Cannes screening, many critics believe the role could earn Simmonds’ the first Oscar nomination for a deaf person since Marlee Matlin won best actress in 1986 for her work in Children of a Lesser Godthe first movie since the 1926 silent film You'd Be Surprised to cast a deaf actor in a major role.

Roadside Attractions and Amazon Studios have Wonderstruck set to release in select theaters on October 20.


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Hope Schreiber

Hope Schreiber is a writer from New York currently living in LA. She is an expert in folklore, demonology, and can pronounce "charcuterie.”



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