/ 30 May 2024

Ezra opens in SA cinemas this Friday, 31 May 2024


The young actor who plays Ezra in the film, William A Fitzgerald, is on the autistic spectrum – as is his character

Film synopsis
Stand-up comic Max Bernal (Bobby Cannavale) and his 11-year-old autistic son Ezra (introducing William A Fitzgerald) set off on a road trip, in this vivid portrait of a family figuring out how to understand one another. Having recently blown up his career and his marriage, Max is living with his father Stan (Robert de Niro) and is profoundly at odds with his soon-to-be ex-wife Jenna (Rose Byrne) about how to address their son’s special needs. When Ezra is expelled from yet another school, Max makes the controversial decision to take Ezra in the middle of the night, embarking on a cross-country odyssey. Directed by Tony Goldwyn, Ezra also features Vera Farmiga, Rainn Wilson, and Whoopi Goldberg.

Getting it right
What makes Ezra unique is that the script was written by screenwriter and playwright, Tony Spiridakis, who is the father of a son (now 24 years old) on the autistic spectrum — and the young actor who plays Ezra in the film, William A Fitzgerald, is on the autistic spectrum.  This film marks his professional acting debut.

Throughout the production of Ezra, from start to finish, the filmmakers set out to ensure the inclusion of people with close personal or family experience with neurodivergence at every level of cast and crew.  The filmmakers also brought in several outside consultants to prevent them from wandering into their own blind spots.  These included autism activist and actor Alex Plank (The Good Doctor, The Bridge), who runs WrongPlanet.net, a popular community for individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome and autism; and Elaine Hall, founder of The Miracle Project, an innovative theatre, film and expressive arts programme for people with autism, which was featured in the documentary Autism: The Musical

“Having a neurodivergent lead actor was key,” says Goldwyn.  “But in addition to that, we developed a network of people we could go to and repeatedly ask, ‘what are we getting wrong, what are we missing?’ So many people generously helped us to be as real as we could be about life with autism.  Even after we had a first cut, we showed it to people in the community, including young people, to give us their candid thoughts.  I remember one kid coming up to me and saying, ‘this is my life in that movie,’ which was everything to me.”