Incredibly close to having Asperger’s

Thomas Horn in 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close'Every year as Academy Award time draws near our department here at Easter Seals Headquarters gets to talking about the low number of people with disabilities in popular films. This year I piped up. “How about the kid in ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’?” I said. “He has Asperger’s.” Turns out I was wrong about that, though.

The academy-award nominated film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was adapted from Jonathan Safran Foer’s bestselling 2005 novel of the same name. It’s about a 9-year-old boy named Oskar Schell who loses his father in the World Trade Center and becomes obsessed with finding the lock to fit a key his dad left behind. I read the book last year and thought Oskar had many symptoms of Asperger’s, and some blogs and movie reviews refer to the character as “autistic” or having Asperger’s Syndrome. In the movie, however, when Oskar tells a stranger that he was tested for Asperger’s syndrome once, he says, “Dad said it’s for people who are smarter than everybody else but can’t run straight. The tests weren’t definitive.”

A post on the FilmLeaf blog explains that when it came to casting Oskar’s part, filmmakers didn’t go the child-actor route. Instead, they contacted Thomas Horn, winner of a teen version of “Jeopardy!” It’s Thomas Horn’s first acting role, and I guess FilmLeaf wasn’t listening when he gives that line about the tests not being definitive:

Thomas Horn is a gem. Asperger’s boys do make attractive narrators, quirkily articulate, just disconnected enough from the normal feelings to make readers do some feeling of their own.

I haven’t seen the film, and doubt I will — it was too weird to think of Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock getting starring rolls. I liked the book, and I want to keep it that way.


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  1. Bob Wilson Says:

    One of the best films in the last decade!

  2. Beth Finke Says:

    Guilty as charged. Still haven’t seen the movie. Always assumed the young actor was perfect for the part, though — the filmmakers became aware of him after he won the special kids edition of quiz show “Jeopardy!”

  3. suze Says:

    The film is brilliant. Thomas Horn gives such a moving performance. He is the star role in this movie – Tom Hanks & Sandra Bullock play their roles beautifully to compliment his character.
    Though I do struggle to understand what this article is actually about?…since you have not even seen the movie & it turns out Thomas Horn does not in fact have Aspergers. His character does display several characteristics of a child with Aspergers & I am very happy we are seeing a wider awareness of this in film & television.

  4. Parenting Says:

    I think Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is what one might call a “Marmite” film, from the reviews I have read people either love it or hate it. People with experience of Aspergers seem to like the film whereas many professional reviewers, like the Daily Mail’s Christopher Tookey found the main character, Oscar, unbelievably irritating.

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