Ian Michael Smith
A hospital worker in the Chicago area had approached the parents of young Ian Michael Smith about his auditioning for the leading role in a soon-to-filmed motion picture. Like the film's hero, Smith is afflicted with Morquio Syndrome, a rare enzyme disorder that affects the circulatory, muscular and skeletal systems. The Smiths were concerned about exploitation but after reading the novel on which the film was based agreed to allow their son to audition. Although he eventually lost on that role (the film was "The Mighty" and Kieran Culkin landed the part), Smith was recommended for another role in a film based on a novel. This time, his audition tape won over the director and the novice was hired to essay the title role of "Simon Birch" (1998), suggested by John Irving's "A Prayer for Owen Meany." Because of his illness, Smith is just over three feet tall, having undergone several operations including a spinal fusion and two bilateral osteotomies, he was the perfect choice to play Simon, touted as having been so small when he was born his mother didn't even notice the delivery. The novice actor proved a natural before the cameras and impressing some reviewers who found the film itself treacly and sentimental.