Ellen Page optioned the rights to FREEHELD when she was 21. Eight years later, Cynthia Wade’s Oscar-winning documentary short is a feature film co-starring Page and Julianne Moore as Stacie Andree and Laurel Hester, the same-sex couple who challenged the Freeholders of Ocean County, NJ for Hester’s right to leave her pension to Andree. Told with both immediacy and intimacy, the film follows the courtship that led to an official domestic partnership between the two women, and Hester’s battle with lung cancer, a battle that made her petition to the Freeholders all the more urgent.
When I spoke with Moore and Page on October 7, 2015, we talked about emotional truth, visceral understanding, and respecting the glamor that was Laurel Hester.
FREEHELD is a passionate film about love, commitment, and justice. Moore and Page co-star as Laurel Hester and Stacie Andree, a couple whose love for each other cannot include marriage in 2005. When Hester, a 23-year veteran of the Ocean City Police department falls ill with lung cancer, she petitions the city council to leave her pension to Andree, her registered domestic partner and the love of her life. When her petition is denied, it forces Hester, who has live in the closet for most of her life, to go public, protesting the decision, and bringing attention to the injustice visited upon her, and those in her situation. The film co-stars Michael Shannon as Dane Wells, Hester’s partner on the police force, and Steve Carell as Steven Goldstein, the local LGBT activist who won’t take no for an answer. Based on the 2007 Oscar™-winning short documentary of the same name, FREEHELD was directed by Peter Sollet from a script by Ron Nyswaner. Page served as a producer on the film, and her previous credits include an Oscar™-nominated role in and as JUNO, THE EAST, WHIP IT, and X-MEN DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. Moore’s credits include A SINGLE MAN, BOOGIE NIGHTS, THE HOURS, MAGNOLIA, WHAT MAISIE KNEW, THE HUNGER GAMES, and an Oscar™ for STILL ALICE.