TORONTO — In the hotel suite where Julianne Moore and Ellen Page were set to do an interview for their new film, “Freeheld,” it was pretty obvious the two actresses genuinely liked each other. “First of all, I don’t think anyone doesn’t like Julie,” said Page. “But beyond that, to make this film, I think it would be impossible to do it if you didn’t truly like the other actress you were working with on this story.”
Newly minted Oscar winner Moore agreed. “It’s such a beautiful love story, and to do that with Ellen was very, very special. We loved the script and we loved the story, it was as simple as that.”
The story the women were referring to was that of the late Laurel Hester (played by Moore) who — after discovering she had terminal lung cancer — fought a long battle to ensure her pension benefits would pass on to her same-sex domestic partner, Stacie Andree. Page portrays Andree in the movie. Hester, who long was a closeted Ocean County, New Jersey, police detective, had been one of the most honored members of her local community’s police department.
Though Hester lost her battle with her disease in 2006, Andree was deeply involved in the making of “Freeheld,” the feature film (opening Friday) that shares a title with the 2007 movie that won the Academy Award for best short documentary.
For Moore, Andree’s participation was vital, though obviously a tough choice for Hester’s surviving partner. “It was lucky and special to have Stacie involved. She is a very special person. She’s so quiet and unassuming and sensitive and vulnerable. Obviously this was difficult for her, as Laurel’s death was such a wrenching loss.
“So for her to allow us to tell her story — that was a very generous gift on her part. It was extremely generous, and it was pretty momentous to have her involved.”
On a lighter note, Page, who recently revealed that she is gay herself, laughed as she talked about getting some training to be convincing as a mechanic in the film.
“I did go to a garage and they did teach me how to rotate tires [for a key scene in ‘Freeheld’]. I did it over and over and over again. I’m sure that to some people — especially anyone who does it for a living — I look like an utter moron.
“But for the general public, I think I pulled it off just fine!”