OT Adjunct Professor Advises on New Film ‘Cardboard Boxer’

Adjunct professor in the Occupational Therapy department and ’00 graduate of NYU Steinhardt’s Occupational Therapy Post-Professional Program Michael Tranquilli recently served as an OT consultant on the movie Cardboard Boxer (2016), with actor Boyd Holbrook (Narcos, Gone Girl). Tranquilli spent over three weeks working with Holbrook on the streets of New York City in a wheelchair borrowed from the department, training and educating him on how to manually propel curb cuts, sidewalks, ramps, potholes, and maneuver transferring to multiple surfaces in preparation for Holbrook’s role in the film, where he portrays a bilateral lower extremity amputee war veteran.

This is the second film Tranquilli, who is also a private practice occupational therapist, has consulted on and the second time he has worked with Holbrook. The first film, Little Accidents (2014), portrayed Holbrook as a stroke victim in a West Virginia mining town. For that project, Tranquilli educated Holbrook in the complex array of deficits and behavioral characteristics associated with neurologic injuries such as CVA, hypoxia, aphasia, and the psychosocial aspects present with victims of stroke. Through an activity analysis of each of the characters’ scenes, he designed an occupational profile and a progressive framework for cognitive, motor, and speech patterns, that helped to guide the actor’s conceptualization of each scene.

Cardboard Boxer follows Willie (Thomas Haden Church), a homeless man living on LA’s skid row who is coerced by a group of rich teenagers with a video camera to fight others on the street for money. His solace from the violence is reading the words of a diary he finds, written by a young girl who is grieving the loss of her mother. Pinky (Boyd Holbrook) helps Willie decipher the cursive script that the diary is scrawled in. Together they share in the pain of her words, and are moved by her plight so much that they attempt to find her. The film also stars Terrence Howard (Empire, Crash) and is currently playing (as of 9/16/16) at Village East Cinema (181-189 2nd Ave. NY, NY 10003).