It was Julianne Moore day at the Toronto International Film Festival. For me , at least. I saw two new Moore films back to back Sunday. First up was a very funny new romantic comedy, Maggie’s Plan in which she stars with Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke and Bill Hader, playing Hawke’s wife with a very deep Danish accent and hairstyle with a bun pointed to the heavens. She’s genuinely hilarious in this role. On the opposite end of that scale she plays Laurel Hester, a fourth stage cancer patient looking to leave her police pension to her life partner, but fighting a commission that won’t recognize her right to do just that in Sunday night’s World Premiere Gala ,Freeheld. Ellen Page is excellent as her significant other Stacie Andree and the small , underdog film is heartbreaking to watch. It’s all a true story and many of the real life people, including Andree, were in an opening night audience that really seemed to respond to this movie which Lionsgate releases on Oct 2nd. Considering the recent Supreme Court ruling making gay marriage legal in all 50 states, and a Kentucky clerk’s highly publicized refusal last week to comply, this film may have hit the zeitgeist in terms of subject matter. Page’s longtime manager and head of ID PR, Kelly Bush Novak was one of the producers and told me at Lionsgate’s pre-screening party at Montecito that they have been developing this project for seven years. It is based on an Oscar winning documentary short and certainly a labor of love for all involved. It came about in 2008 because Bush Novak’s kids and Academy Award nominated producer Stacey Sher’s kids both went to the same school . One day Sher said she and her partner Michael Shamberg were going to turn the doc short into a feature film and gave it to Bush Novak and Page to look at. Page got attached and in the process Bush Novak became a producer on it. In the end they showed 20 minutes of footage in Berlin and there were seven offers, with Lionsgate/Summit taking the prize.
I have added a variety of mq and hq images of Julianne from the last two days at TIFF to the gallery. Enjoy.
- Appearances > Appearances from 2015 > September 12: EW’s Must List Party At TIFF
- Appearances > Appearances from 2015 > September 12: 2015 Toronto International Film Festival – “Maggie’s Plan” Premiere
- Appearances > Appearances from 2015 > September 12: 2015 Toronto International Film Festival – “Freeheld” Press Conference
- Appearances > Appearances from 2015 > September 13: Vanity Fair Toast Of “Freeheld” At TIFF 2015
- Appearances > Appearances from 2015 > September 13: 2015 Toronto International Film Festival – “Freeheld” Premiere
Julianne Moore credits Canadian actress Ellen Page’s openness about her own coming out with helping her get to the heart of portraying terminally ill New Jersey police detective Laurel Hester in love-and-rights drama Freeheld, having its world premiere at TIFF Sept. 13.
It’s based on a true story about a lesbian couple’s battle “to be treated like everybody else,” said Moore.
It’s set in the early 2000s and Page, who is also a producer on Freeheld, plays Hester’s partner, Stacie Andree.
Hester’s request to make Andree her police pension beneficiary upon her death was denied. Their ensuing battle, reluctantly taken on by the very private couple, makes Hester’s sexuality — long kept private for fear of repercussions on the job — dramatically public.
“I really didn’t understand the pain that a person feels when they’re closeted,” said Moore from Los Angeles ahead of arriving in Toronto for the premiere.
“She (Page) was very frank about absolutely everything and I would ask her tons of questions,” said Moore, an Oscar winner for her portrayal of a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s in Still Alice.
“I am lucky I got to know Ellen the way that I have.
“Here is this young woman closeted for such a long time in a professional environment who was not able to describe her difficulty and her pain, and it was so generous of her to explain it all to me and to share it, and she was so incredibly vulnerable in her explanation of it,” Moore said of Page, who came out in February 2014.
“I love her to bits and we were instantly friends and partners, and it was just great to go to work everyday and have her there,” continued Moore, affection and admiration evident in her voice. “She really did a beautiful job portraying that quality of Stacie’s, that gentleness and reticence and the fierceness of her love for (Laurel) as well.”
It’s not the first time Moore has played a lesbian onscreen or filmed an intimate scene with another woman, including The Kids Are All Right and Atom Egoyan’s thriller Chloe.
Andree also provided her with insight into playing Hester, said Moore.
The 2007 Oscar-winning short documentary, also titled Freeheld, provided a visual record of part of Hester’s life but only her final months.
“I couldn’t figure out who Laurel was,” said Moore. “I couldn’t quite put my finger on Laurel. I was really trying to find her.”
When Andree showed her photos of Hester before her chemotherapy with long, Farrah Fawcett-styled blond hair, something clicked.
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, her hair!’” said Moore. Andree told Moore that Hester had worn her hair like that since she was a teenager and she was very proud of it.
That helped Moore film a poignant scene in Freeheld, where Andree holds Hester in her arms and uses clippers to tenderly remove the final, wispy remnants of the painfully frail woman’s hair. It’s juxtaposed against a noisy demonstration by Hester’s supporters outside a political office.
“How intimate the scene is, how much care Stacie takes with Laurel and how much love you feel between them,” Moore marvelled of the moment. Putting it with scenes of the civil rights fight “is when the personal becomes political.”
Moore said the time is right for a drama like Freeheld because “women haven’t had a movie like this.”
“The gay male community had Philadelphia, but female couples have not had this movie.”
(Ron Nyswaner, who won an Oscar for the 1993 Tom Hanks drama about a lawyer fighting wrongful dismissal after being diagnosed with AIDS, is also the screenwriter on Freeheld.)
Moore’s hope for Freeheld is that it finds its place in the multiplex with all the other fall releases when it opens Oct. 9, that “people would go and watch it as entertainment and say, ‘Oh my goodness, this is how we all feel about each other and how we all feel about our loved ones.’”
- Appearances > Appearances from 2015 > September 11: 2015 Toronto International Film Festival – In Conversation With Julianne Moore