Based on the memoir by Jeff Bauman, the movie Stronger details Bauman's struggle to adjust to his new life as an amputee after losing his legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Okja actor Jake Gyllenhaal portrays Bauman, and while disability activists weren't happy with the choice as they believed a disabled actor should have been utilized, Bauman was happy with director David Green's casting.
Gyllenhaal spent two and a half years working with Bauman, determined to learn everything he could that would enable him to play the role realistically. In a statement, Bauman said he was grateful to Gyllenhaal for his commitment to authenticity.
“I'm so grateful to director David Gordon Green and especially to Jake for their fierce commitment to authenticity. I don't know another actor that could have conveyed that the early days are tough but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and things do get better. Jake and I spent so much time together going over how I walked, moved and transferred. He asked questions no one really ever asked me before like what hurt, what obstacles are the toughest — he was so invested and it showed."
And Gyllenhaal's dedication has paid off as the reviews have started to come in. Rolling Stone gives "kudos to a brilliant, hilariously unexpected performance from Jake Gyllenhaal", adding, "Gyllenhaal is one of the finest and most intuitive actors of his generation (see Brokeback Mountain, End of Watch and Nightcrawler), and his triumph in Stronger is letting us see a man who won't let a tragedy define him."
National Review said "Bauman [was] captivatingly played by Jake Gyllenhaal in a richly detailed performance." And AV Club continues the praise saying "Gyllenhaal, who’s slowly transformed into one of the most intense actors of his generation, plugs us into this gauntlet of physical and emotional torment."
Bauman couldn't agree more with the reviewers' assessments of Gyllenhaal's work and is proud of the film.
"Many of my fellow survivors and amputee friends were extras and were amazed by the things he was doing on set. When they watched the finished product, they appreciated how the film focuses on the everyday struggles of adjusting to life as an amputee — waking up, going to put your feet on the floor and falling flat on your face, navigating large crowds, getting in and out of a car — all of the things you take for granted before an injury like this. I am so proud of the film and how well it has been received by those who have seen it.”
The movie also helped to cement a bond between Bauman and Gyllenhaal. The author traveled to see Gyllenhaal on Broadway, and the pair threw out the first pitch at Fenway Park together. Bauman's only complaint about Gyllenhaal's portrayal was the actor's Bostonian accent, saying on the Today show, "It was alright," even while admitting the actor worked very hard at it. There's no doubt, with that being the only critique, Gyllenhaal nailed the role.
#Stronger opens in movie theaters on September 22nd.