The as yet untitled Pet Sematary prequel in production at Paramount has added double hand amputee John W Lawson to the cast in a role that was altered after the actor was cast. The disability-inclusion activist auditioned for the role of "Stanny" in the movie, and although the character was originally not written without hands, the part was rewritten around the actor. The casting has also led to some further details about the movie being revealed by director Lindsey Beer, as even though the movie is already well progressed there has been little revealed about what can be expected from the story, which is expected to flesh out the story of a young Jud Crandall and his first experiences of the Pet Sematary's horrors.
Speaking to Variety, Lawson said, "I have myoelectric hands... or what people commonly call 'cyborg,' But most of the time, it's just my hooks."
While Lawson has appeared in American Horror Story, the casting makes Pet Sematary one of the first major horror movies to cast a double amputee in a prominent role, although there are not many actors with Lawson's physical disability but outstanding acting ability in the industry either. The actor went through two auditions before finding out that in between there had been script rewrites to allow him to be cast in the role.
"And when I got the new sides," he said to Variety, "they had completely written the role for the character to be an amputee. Which was freakin' awesome. Because it was not [an amputee role before] in any way. That, to me, was a real turning point, not only in casting, but in the mindset of Hollywood."
Lindsay Beer elaborated on the audition that led to Lawson's casting, and also unveiled a little detail about the character and how he figures in the story. "John's audition portrayed a layered range of both aggressiveness and vulnerability. His character is hiding a secret, and has led a difficult life that puts him on the offensive with our main character, young Jud Crandall. But underneath the bluster, Stanny is someone in search of connection, and he wants to tell our hero Jud the truth. [Lawson's] performance really brought humanity and nuance to the role."
Even before seeing Lawson's audition, from her comments it was clear that there was always some thought being given to marginalized community representation in the movie. "A large focus of this story was on reversing the genre stereotype of the mystical indigenous and cursed Native American land. I try to be as inclusive as possible in all of my projects, and that includes creating meaningful roles for [disabled people.] But we had not originally envisioned a double amputee for Stanny's character. [Lawson's] unique circumstance led to some interesting changes in the backstory and actions of his character, and all for the better."
John W. Lawson lost his hands at the age of 30 in an electrical accident, and now three decades on he has frequently found that many don't expect him to be able to do many things that he has achieved when attending casting calls. "I've changed diapers and made bottles! Everything that mommy and daddy do for a baby, I did with hooks. I've always been in the camp that's about education. Like, 'Hey, I'm a trained actor, I can do these things. Let me show you what I can do, and then find a role for me.'"
The Pet Sematary prequel will stream on Paramount+ when it is released sometime in the next couple of years. This news comes from Variety.