What happened to Marlee Matlin, a deaf actress who won an Oscar for ‘Children of a Lesser God’?

A newcomer to the entertainment industry was rising against all odds with the Oscar for best actress in 1987 for Children of a lesser god. Era Marlee Matlin, a deaf interpreter who debuted in the cinema with William Hurt and under the direction of Randa Haines in a film that opted for five Academy Awards and that in the end only materialized that of that young fighter who beat veterans like Sigourney Weaver (Aliens, the return), Kathleen Turner (Peggy Sue got married), Sissy Spacek (Crimes of the heart) and Jane Fonda (The next morning).

Born on August 24, 1965 in Illinois into a Jewish family of Russian and Polish origin, a genetic malformation caused her to lose hearing in the right ear and 80% of the hearing capacity in the left at 18 months. This disability never limited her desire to become an actress and at the age of seven she played Dorothy from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ in a play. “I’ve always resisted setting limits, both professionally and personally,” he once said in an interview.

During her youth she was part of ICODA, the International Center for Deafness and the Arts, a non-profit foundation where she was discovered by the actor, director and producer Henry Winkler, who invited her to audition for the film adaptation of Children of a lesser god, a play written by Mark Medoff that ran on Broadway between 1980 and 1982 and returned to the stage again in 2018. With her experience and determination, Marlee easily took on the role of Sarah Norman, a young deaf who she had a love affair with a deaf therapist (Hurt) who went out of her way to teach her to speak rather than sign language.

The film garnered rave reviews, and Matlin’s moving performance earned her the Golden Globe for Best Dramatic Actress, in addition to the Oscar. At the age of 21, she became the youngest actress to win the golden statuette in that category, apart from being the only deaf woman to do so to date.

William Hurt, with whom he began a romantic relationship during the filming of the film, was in charge of giving him the award with a loving kiss and a handshake. To the loud applause of the attendees, an emotional Marlee expressed in sign language that she had not prepared a speech, but thanked the members of the Academy, her family and the film team, especially Hurt for their support and love.

A love that, in the end, ended up like the rosary of dawn, since they had a very turbulent relationship for two years. In his memoir, titled I will scream later, Marlee accused him of physical and emotional abuse. In the pages, he even recounted an attempted rape by his partner. “I was always afraid of him. But I always loved him ”, he assured.

She had been hooked on drugs for a while since she moved to New York at age 19 and he had a problem with alcohol. In her memoirs she reflected the season she spent at the Betty Ford clinic to detoxify and her complicated childhood, where she suffered sexual abuse by her nanny and one of her teachers.

After the success of Children of a lesser god, Matlin did not repeat the feat on the big screen. Together with Ed Harris he took part in the western Walker (1987) and then went on to join the group of interpreters who had no choice but to pursue their careers on television, especially in series and telefilms, such as Bridge of silence, con Lee Remick o Reasonable doubts, along with Mark Harmon, for which he chose the Golden Globe in 1992 and 1993.

Marlee Matlin in California in a 2013 picture

Chris Pizzello / ©GTRESONLINE

For Picket Fences (1992), series created by David E. Kelly, was nominated for an Emmy. Other well-known series for which he was seen are Seinfeld, Emergencies, The West Wing of the White House, Law, My name is earl, Desperate women, Family Guy, CSI: New York O L. On Changed at birth (2011-2017) played Melody Bledsoe, a counselor and basketball coach at a school for the deaf.

Virtually all of the films he made for the cinema after his acclaimed debut went unnoticed, destined for video store consumption, such as Shadows in the silence, in the role of a deaf-mute athletics coach; Blue betrayal O In his own defense. In 1993, she married Kevin Grandakski, a police officer she lives with in Los Angeles and whom she met while filming the series. Reasonable doubts. The marriage is the father of four children: Sarah Rose (1996), Brandon (2000), Tyler (2002) and Isabelle Jane (2003).

Matlin with her husband and children

Matlin with her husband and children


Aside from her acting career, Marlee Matlin is also a writer – she has published the novel Deaf child crossing, loosely based on his childhood, and a series of children’s books – and has been noted for his charitable work to benefit the integration of deaf people and the fight against AIDS. He has also had no qualms about being seen by some television contests with celebrities who have come under the radar as Look who is dancing O The newbie to raise funds for the foundations in which it is involved.

One of his last works has been in the fantastic series The magicians. He has announced his participation in the romantic drama Silent knights in a leading role and Silent voice, where he will coincide with Blair Underwood in a story about a man who will find his own voice with the help of his family and community.

At 53, Marlee uses social networks to insist on the need to achieve greater inclusion in society of people with different abilities, with special attention to minors, as well as a more constant presence of the use of sign language in the televisions. In 2016, she used her Twitter and Instagram account to respond to her outrage over statements by Donald Trump in which she had referred to her as “retarded” at the time when the current president of the United States was the host of the reality show The Celebrity Apprentice.

“In recent press reports circulating that Donald Trump apparently called me ‘retarded’. The term is aberrant and should never be used (…). I am deaf, there are millions of deaf or hard of hearing people in the world who are discriminated against on a daily basis. It is unacceptable ”, he stressed.

Matlin is close friends with actress Jennifer Beals (Flashdance) and since 2009 has had its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On her Instagram account, with about 200,000 followers, she posts images where she is always smiling next to colleagues, friends or family.

The actress, who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, is also a writer and activist in favor of the integration of deaf people and the fight against AIDS.