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By Crystal Downing


Differently Disabled

Forrest Gump without the extravagance: the ordinary life of Bill Porter.

My ruse of acting wheelchair-bound was soon discovered by a nurse, who proceeded to drill a hole in the back of my head in order to permanently fasten it to the chair. This disturbing dream scenario came to me only several hours after I had watched Door to Door (2002), a made-for-television movie now available in video rental stores. Based on the true-life story of a man impaired by cerebral palsy, the movie features the writing and acting abilities of William H. Macy, who achieved fame as the neurotically dishonest car salesman of Fargo (1996). In Door to Door, Macy plays a salesman once again, but this time he generates our esteem, delighting us when—as Bill Porter, the real-life person he plays—he becomes the "Door to Door Salesman of the Year" for a Portland company.

The two phases of my dream—from acting disabled to becoming disabled by a drill to the head—parallel the two phases of my response to Macy's work in Door to Door, which earned him an award from the Screen Actors Guild. First, I was overwhelmed by his skill at capturing the debilitating effects of Bill's condition: slurred speech from the side of a mouth which had to be repeatedly wiped for drool; a useless arm cocked stiffly behind a back which angled awkwardly toward the ground when Bill walked; huge ears cocked at a comical angle from his sad-sack face. By the end of the film, however, I was no longer thinking of Macy's consummate acting ability; I was thinking of the amazing Bill Porter, who surmounted not only his physical disabilities but also the ridicule and suspicion that they elicited from others. Thus, my dream of actually becoming disabled echoed how Macy had actually become the disabled Bill in the dreamwork of film.

Door to Door, however, also illuminates the perversity of the dream that is Hollywood. Though winning six Emmy awards based upon impressive performances by characters who convincingly age from 1953 to 1997, Door to Door will not become famous like a Hollywood success similar to ...

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