Julianne Moore, left, and Ellen Page play domestic partners who challenge policymakers in New Jersey in “Freeheld.” (Courtesy Phil Caruso)

Moore, Page promote ‘Freeheld’ with pride

Julianne Moore and Ellen Page, recently in San Francisco, seem nothing but pleased to be doing duty together on a press tour promoting their new movie “Freeheld.”

They say they’ve received nothing but positive reaction to the film, based on the true story of Laurel Hester, a veteran New Jersey police detective whose battle with cancer also included a fight to ensure that her domestic partner would receive her pension benefits after she died.

Moore, who played Laurel, and Page, who portrayed her partner Stacie Andree, an auto mechanic 19 years younger than Laurel, easily took on the challenge of playing real people (whose story is detailed in the Academy Award-winning 2007 documentary, also called “Freeheld,” directed by Cynthia Wade).

“We actually had more access to the ill Laurel,” says Moore, who added that the crew and others on the set of the movie who had known people suffering with cancer were particularly moved while they were shooting the film’s medical and health-related scenes.

Page got to know the real Stacie.

“We would hang out, mostly. I spent time with her, talking with her about their relationship,” says Page, who mentions that while she didn’t want to do an imitation of Stacie, she did study her movements carefully. At one point, Stacie even teased her about watching the way she picked up a glass. Looking over at Page, a smiling Moore says she didn’t know that.

While neither actress knew Laurel or Stacie before the feature film was in the works, Page, who was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in 2007’s “Juno,” says Stacie sat next to her aunt at the 2008 ceremony.

Both actresses say most elements of the movie were real, although a scene in which Laurel draws her gun on a couple of haters who intrude on their first date may have been fictionalized. As Page cutely repeats her line from a movie: “You bring a gun on a date?,” Moore makes the point that Laurel was like most cops, who typically carry guns.

Although Laurel treated her sexuality as a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation for most of her career, Moore says the character came forward initially not as a political activist for same-sex rights, but as a justice seeker who wanted her partner to receive what was rightfully due to her.

Stacie’s challenge, Page says, was even more intensely personal. For her to join the fight meant she had to acknowledge that the love of her life was going to die.

IF YOU GO

Freeheld
Starring Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Michael Shannon, Steve Carell
Written by Ron Nyswaner
Directed by Peter Sollett
Rated PG-13
Running time 1 hour, 43 minutes

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