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“Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” Celebrates the Life of Disabled Cartoonist John Callahan

This Amazon Studios produced biopic based on Portland’s own John Callahan’s memoir of the same name, “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” chronicles Callahan’s life after a drunk driving accident at 21 years-old leaves him quadriplegic. When his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) pushes him into therapy, Callahan discovers a new talent for drawing cartoons.

The film stars Joaquin Phoenix as Callahan, Jonah Hill as his mentor Donnie, and Jack Black as Dexter, as well as singers Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, Beth Ditto of Gossip and Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and was originally intended for a May release.

Callahan was an off-color cartoonist and singer who began drinking at age twelve to “hide the pain” of sexual abuse he faced from a female teacher in elementary school. Callahan passed away in 2010 at the age of 59 after a surgical procedure.

Callahan overcame his alcoholism at 27 and despite his disability, drew crude cartoons that often poked fun at his condition and social status by clutching a pen between both of his hands. His work was often deemed politically incorrect by critics, but he was unbothered by negative reviews.

He told the New York Times in 1992, “My only compass for whether I’ve gone too far is the reaction I get from people in wheelchairs, or with hooks for hands. Like me, they are fed up with people who presume to speak for the disabled. All the pity and the patronizing, that’s what is truly detestable.”

Director Gus Van Sant is no stranger to films with heavy issues like marginalized groups or discrimination based on one’s non-chosen identity or disability. Van Sant is openly gay and has directed queer classics like 1991’s “My Own Private Idaho” starring the late River Phoenix and 2008’s “Milk” based on gay politician Harvey Milk.

Watch the lighthearted trailer below.

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