“The Upside”: An Inside Look with Permobil on the Creation of the Film

Published in Member Communities on January 22, 2019

Many people are familiar with the newly-released movie called “The Upside,” a film that portrays a friendship between Phillip Lacasse, a wealthy man with quadriplegia (played by Bryan Cranston) and Dell Scott (played by Kevin Hart), who is hired to help him. However, some people may not realize that one of the industry’s largest manufacturers, Permobil, had a role in the production of this film.

Because Phillip Lacasse uses a complex wheelchair, Permobil was asked to provide their F5 Corpus VS (vertical stander) power chair for the movie. Permobil representatives from New York’s Frank Morrone to California’s Rebecca Oliveri and Anthony Santoro were involved with coordinating demo chairs for Cranston to use throughout the production. Other Permobil employees including Joe Kelly, the Eastern Regional Vice President of Sales, and Tony Forgione, Territory Sales Manager for Eastern Pennsylvania, were on-set during filming to provide training and instruction on how to properly use their product.

“We were working on a Hollywood set like we were working in a clinical rehab setting,” said Joe Kelly. “We were bringing clinical relevance to the movie, so it was just a neat experience from that aspect.”

Kelly and Forgione provided training directly to Cranston. Once the initial feeling of being “star-struck” faded, the reps went through and showed Cranston how to use the chair’s many functionalities, including how to tilt, recline, use the seat elevator, the power elevating leg rests, the standing function and driving via chin control.

“[Cranston] was so intelligent,” according to Kelly. “When we do this kind of instruction on a complex chair like the F5 Corpus VS with a mini joystick chin control, it can take people days and days to be able to pick it up and to master it.” Cranston, however, was able to pick it up and dive deep into his character. “He was so committed to demonstrating independence with power mobility consistent with his character’s injury level that a demo was even provided for practice at his home by our Southern California representatives.”

According to Kelly, the creators of the movie did a lot of background research about complex wheelchairs in order to portray everything correctly. “It was so cool because of the fact that they were doing all this background research prior to the movie,” said Kelly. “They put all the work into it to make sure that it was as real as possible.”

One instance of this authenticity and attention to detail was after the crew broke for lunch and resumed filming, the director noticed that Cranston had some dirt on the bottom of his shoe while he was tilted and reclined in the chair.

“The director saw the dirt on the bottom of his shoes while they were filming, stopped everything, and had somebody come out and clean his shoes off,” said Kelly. “They were very conscious of that [detail].”

Throughout the creation of this movie, many people on set recognized the fact that specialized, complex rehab equipment is essential for individuals with these particular needs. Because Cranston’s character had compromised balance from the injury and would fall over, the creators knew the character would have to have very supportive seating in order to properly hold him up in the chair.

“These guys realize now that [people] need to have special equipment to be able to sit up and be able to spend 14 hours in a chair,” Said Kelly. “Showcasing a power wheelchair like the F5 Corpus VS also helps draw attention to the availability and medical necessity of standing power wheelchairs.”

Another aspect of this movie is the portrayal of a wheelchair never being an obstacle to living life to the fullest. “Even though he was in a wheelchair, and he had [physical] boundaries, there were really no boundaries on his life, which I thought was so cool,” said Kelly.

Kelly, along with many others at Permobil, were very grateful for the experience of working with the film industry to help the CRT industry be portrayed in this type of spotlight. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, and for them to really embrace this and to do it right, that was certainly a great experience.” Kelly and Forgione, who both enjoyed brief on-screen appearances as extras, said that while working on the film was a career highlight, their commitment to the complex rehab world won’t be swayed by the lure of the Hollywood lights.

“The Upside” is not only a feel-good movie about two people from different worlds developing an unlikely friendship, but it also draws more attention to the CRT community. It shows audiences that no matter your situation in life, you can always live life to the fullest.

“It’ll be a feel-good story for everybody,” said Kelly. “I think everyone will enjoy it.”

“The Upside” premiered January 11, 2019, and is playing in theaters everywhere. To learn more, visit https://www.theupside.movie/.

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