The film is based on the true story of Laurel Hester (Moore), a police officer in Ocean County, New Jersey. Following her diagnosis with terminal lung cancer in 2005, Hester repeatedly appealed to the county’s board of chosen freeholders in an attempt to ensure her pension benefits could be passed on to her domestic partner, Stacie Andree (Ellen Page).
Freeheld is an American drama film directed by Peter Sollett and written by Ron Nyswaner. The film stars Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Steve Carell, Luke Grimes and Michael Shannon, and began filming in October 2014 in New York. It is based on the 2007 documentary short film of the same name about police officer Laurel Hester’s fight against the Ocean County, New Jersey Board of Chosen Freeholders to allow her pension benefits to be transferred to her domestic partner after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. The film had its World Premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.
About the Film
Screenwriter Ron Nyswaner announced his intention in 2010 to write a feature-length adaptation of Cynthia Wade’s 2007 short film Freeheld, a documentary about New Jersey police officer Laurel Hester’s fight against the Ocean County, New Jersey Board of Chosen Freeholders to pass on her pension benefits to her domestic partner, Stacie Andree, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.
At that time, Ellen Page had already agreed to star as Andree; she stated in 2014 that she had been involved in the project’s development for almost six years. Catherine Hardwicke was attached to the project as director early in its development but later withdrew.
Shortly after the film’s financing was secured in August 2012, Peter Sollett signed on to replace Hardwicke as director. Julianne Moore was cast as Hester in February 2014. Zach Galifianakis was cast as Steven Goldstein, the founder and then-Chair of Garden State Equality, but was later replaced by Steve Carell.
Although the film is set in New Jersey, it was filmed in New York due to its more generous tax incentives for filmmakers. Filming began in October 2014 in Queens. In late October, a scene that was supposed to be filmed at Salesian High School, a Catholic boys’ school in New Rochelle, New York, had to be relocated after the school’s principal reversed his decision to allow the crew to film on the school campus.
The shoot was later relocated to the city hall of Rye, New York, which stood in for the Ocean County Town Hall in a scene where Hester and Andree apply for domestic partnership. Another scene, in which Hester lies ill in a hospital room, was filmed in the community center of Greenburgh, New York, while the town board room of North Hempstead, New York stood in for the Ocean County Board of Freeholders’ chambers.
Lionsgate Films purchased distribution rights to the film in February 2015. It received a limited release on October 2, 2015, with a wider release on October 16. 2015.
Directed by: Peter Sollett
Starring: Ellen Page, Julianne Moore, Steve Carell, Michael Shannon, Josh Charles, Mary Birdsong, April Szykeruk
Screenplay by: Ron Nyswaner
Production Design by: Jane Musky
Cinematography by: Maryse Alberti
Film Editing by: Andrew Mondshein
Costume Design by: Stacey Battat
Set Decoration by: Joanne Ling
Music by: Hans Zimmer
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some thematic elements, language and sexuality.
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Release Date: October 16, 2015
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