Oscar winner Julianne Moore and Ellen Page celebrated the New York premiere of Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment’s film “Freeheld,” which tackles gay rights, on Monday night at the Museum of Modern Art. The two stars received heaps of praise for their portrayal of two real-life domestic partners, Laurel Hester (Moore) and Stacie Andree (Page), who fight for New Jersey police officer Hester to be able to leave her pension benefits to Andree upon being diagnosed with lung cancer.
“I found the story of Laurel and Stacie to be incredibly moving. They just wanted to be treated like everybody else,” Moore told Variety on the red carpet. “Their personal story shows that love is love. Every relationship is a valid relationship. I hope our film will show that no matter what a person’s sexuality is, they aren’t any different. Laurel and Stacie wanted a house, they wanted a family, they wanted a dog and they just wanted the things in life like everybody wants. They wanted to be treated equal. I really do believe that with education and exposure comes more tolerance. The more we learn about each other in terms of culture, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, the closer we become and the less we are able to discriminate.”
The film, directed by Peter Sollett, follows terminally ill Hester’s struggle to pass her pension to her life partner — a move considered legal under state law, however, the Ocean County Freeholders (a five-person elected board that makes decisions in the county) denies her case.
Page first heard of Laurel and Stacie’s story when she saw the 2007 Oscar-winning short documentary of the same name by Cynthia Wade. The “Juno” star said she “personally connected to the material,” and has been attached to the film for seven years as a producer.
“I found Laurel and Stacie to be so inspiring. They stood up. They weren’t being treated equally and they did something about it,” Page told Variety. “When I am inspired by other people, it inspires my own life. I want to do the right thing, and that’s one of the reasons why I really wanted their story to be told. They did something so crucial and so important in a time in their lives where they were faced with an unimaginable situation with so much difficulty, pain and sadness. We can still make change today. I really think so. There’s still prejudice, and the only way [we] can progress is to talk about it and do something.”
At the film’s after-party held at Omar’s, a cozy townhouse restaurant located in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, a relaxed Page mingled with well-wishers alongside her real-life girlfriend, Samantha Thomas, while her costars Michael Shannon and Josh Charles spoke with friends. Nearby, Moore shared an animated conversation with director Sollett. Also in attendance were producers Kelly Bush Novak, Michael Shamberg and Julie Goldstein.