A Quiet Place Star Millicent Simmonds Will Play Helen Keller In New Biopic

Millicent Simmonds, the breakout star of "Wonderstruck" and "A Quiet Place," will play Helen Keller opposite Rachel Brosnahan in "Helen & Teacher." Wash Westmoreland, the director of "Still Alice" and Netflix's "Earthquake Bird," will helm the upcoming film about the famed author, educator, and disability rights advocate.

Keller lost her sight and hearing when she was a toddler and spent years after that communicating with home signs, a system of improvised gestures that often take the place of sign language in children who are living in a relative vacuum apart from the Deaf community. When she was 7 years old she met Anne Sullivan, who became her teacher. Brosnahan will play Sullivan, described by The Hollywood Reporter as Keller's "committed yet controlling translator and companion" in "Helen & Teacher."

According to THR, Simmonds is actually related to Keller, being a distant cousin of hers. Simmonds herself is also one of a growing number of actors like Lauren Ridloff ("Eternals") who are bringing increased visibility to deaf performers in Hollywood.

The screenplay for "Helen & Teacher" comes from Westmoreland and Laetitia Mikles, who reportedly wrote it in consultation with the Helen Keller National Center for Youth and Adults. The story is said to be "set during the early 1900s, following Keller's tumultuous time at Radcliffe College of Harvard University, when her rapidly expanding worldview and sexual awakening brings her into direct conflict with the more conservative Sullivan."

Note to TikTok: Helen Keller Was Real

Westmoreland had this to say about "Helen & Teacher:"

"Most people only know of Helen Keller's story from when she was a child. 'Helen & Teacher' will look at her as a young adult when she developed a radical, world-changing political voice. Today, when some TikTok threads dispute Helen Keller's achievements and even her existence, it is time for a film that shows her relevance, her brilliance and her unbreakable spirit."

At the beginning of this year, The Guardian reported on a conspiracy theory that was gaining traction on TikTok, disputing Keller's very existence, despite the fact that she wrote a dozen books and is a well-known lecturer and activist with a museum devoted to her. So that's what Westmoreland is referring to there.

Such denialism is vaguely reminiscent of that scene in "Interstellar" where the schoolteacher sits with a doctored textbook and denies that the moon landing ever happened. It's absurd to think that our post-truth society has gotten this bad, but if the world is averse to trusting sources like Encyclopedia Brittanica and needs reminding that, yes, Helen Keller was a real woman, then a movie starring Millicent Simmonds is a great way to do it.

"Helen & Teacher" doesn't yet have a release date, but stay tuned for more updates on this project.