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
ulianne Moore and producer Bruce Cohen are fighting to rename their old high school in Fairfax County, Virginia, which was named after a Confederate general upon its founding in 1959.
The former classmates have created a Change.org petition asking for the Fairfax County School Board to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School to honor civil rights leader and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
“Today, this school is attended by a diverse group of students who should not have to attend a school that bears the name of a man who fought to keep African Americans enslaved,” the petition, which has garnered nearly 29,000 signatures to date, reads. “No one should have to apologize for the name of the public high school you attended and the history of racism it represents, as we and so many alumni of Stuart have felt the need to do our whole lives.”
J.E.B Stuart’s school symbol is currently an image of Stuart waving the Confederate flag atop a horse. Moore and Cohen’s petition cites the tragic shooting of nine African-Americans in Charleston, South Carolina as an impetus for change.
In a statement to the Washington Post, Moore said, “We name our buildings, monuments and parks after exalted and heroic individuals as a way to honor them, and inspire ourselves to do better and reach for more in our own lives. It is reprehensible to me that in this day and age a school should carry and celebrate the name of a person who fought for the enslavement of other human beings. I think the students of this school deserve better than that moniker.”
The 63rd edition of Spain’s San Sebastian Film Festival has added three competition titles to its official selection lineup.
Organizers on Tuesday unveiled the new competition films that will screen at the event next month. They are Chinese director Liu Hao’s Back to the North (Xiang bei fang), Belgian filmmaker Joachim Lafosse’s The White Knights (Les chevaliers blancs) and Peter Sollett’s period civil rights drama Freeheld, starring Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Michael Shannon, Josh Charles and Steve Carell.
Freeheld tells the true story of a police detective who fought government officials for equal treatment when she was diagnosed with cancer.
Organizers also said on Tuesday that the festival’s New Directors section will close with Swedish production Thieves Honor (Tjuvheder), directed by Peter Gronlund.
The festival previously said it would open with Alejandro Amenabar’s Regression. The dark thriller from the Spanish director behind The Others and The Sea Inside stars Emma Watson and Ethan Hawke. The plot revolves around a father who is accused of a crime he has no memory of committing.
San Sebastian’s closing film will be Rufus Norris’ London Road, it was previously also announced. It is an adaptation of the musical of the same name, based on real-life events in Suffolk in 2006, when the quiet town of Ipswich was shaken by the discovery of the bodies of five murdered women. The film stars Olivia Colman, Tom Hardy and others.
Entertainment Weekly posted a first look photo of Julianne an Ellen Page. You can view it below!
Appearances > Appearances from 2015 > June 8: Alzheimer’s Association New York City Chapter’s 2015 Forget-Me-Not Gala