Ellen Page’s Lesbian Drama ‘Freeheld’ Strives to be Commercial

Ellen Page Freeheld
Courtesy of Lionsgate

Shortly after she came out of the closet in February 2014, Ellen Page went to work playing Stacie Andree in “Freeheld,” about a real-life lesbian couple that must fight to keep pension benefits after one of them (Julianne Moore) becomes terminally ill.

Page saw the 2007 documentary short “Freeheld: The Laurel Hester Story,” and had been circling a scripted adaptation since then. “It’s always tough trying to finance an independent film, particularly when it’s about two women,” says Page, who is also a producer on the picture, along with her manager, Kelly Bush. “There’s this awful bias that women can’t carry films, which is being proven not true. Hopefully that will start to change.”

Page researched by spending time in the house where Andree and her partner Hester lived in New Jersey. “I’m grateful to tell the story, but you wish the movie didn’t exist,” Page says. “They rose to the occasion, while obviously being in unimaginably tragic circumstances.”

Even with “Freeheld’s” ripped-from-the-headlines angle, it’s not clear how commercial the movie, which Lionsgate opens on Oct. 2 in limited release, and wide on Oct. 16, will be. Moore previously played a lesbian onscreen in 2010’s “The Kids Are All Right,” which grossed $20.8 million domestically, bolstered by raves and awards attention. Sony Classics’ 2014 “Love Is Strange,” about an aging gay married couple, eked out only $2.3 million at the domestic B.O.

Writer Ron Nyswaner says of “Freeheld”: “We worked hard to make it out of real people’s lives without distorting those people,” adding that Andree and others involved read the script. “They feel Laurel’s memory has been honored.”

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  1. Lucifer says:

    “There’s this awful bias that women can’t carry films, which is being proven not true. Hopefully that will start to change.”

    No, there isn’t. Studios know women can lead films, they can make buckets of money, and have for many decades. This is becoming a ridiculous myth that actresses, mainly A-list, continue to parrot. It’s as if they want to scare the studios of being labeled “sexist” so they’ll go out of there way to make double or triple the amount of female-lead movies. Which would benefit these rich women even more because they’d have more roles and get more money. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have more female-lead movies, but claiming the studios don’t believe women can lead a movie is completely false and idiotic. If you (a rich, privileged actress) want more roles, just say it or do it, like Reese Witherspoon who created her own production company.

    As for the struggle in getting the movie commercially picked up, it has nothing to do with there being two women in the leading roles and everything to do with it being gay-oriented. Look at how many mainstream gay movies there are each year, maybe one, but usually none. Most of them are not only straight to DVD, but some can’t even find a distributor so they take years to get a release or the producers have websites they ship the manufacture on-demand discs themselves. It’s really pathetic Page used this as a case of “bias towards women in Hollywood” when it’s clearly one of a bias towards LGBT oriented films.

  2. JenJen says:

    This film has zero chance of making money…. ZERO. The investors are complete idiots.

    • Guest says:

      You’re an idiot. I can’t wait to see it. I’m happy supporting women in film and seeing diverse stories on screen. Go and enjoy some mindless sequel reboot drivel and don’t shit on the brave and original filmmaking going on.

      And thanks THR what was the point of this article??? Why give the film this kind of press? Why not go positive and just promote it? Why compare it to other ‘lesbian’ films? Things don’t need to be grouped together like that. Compare it to other small indies if you will but come on, you’re perpetuating the stupidity that exists in Hollywood.

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