The film crew for the upcoming drama Freeheld got a rude awakening while trying to tape scenes for the movie at Salesian High School in New Rochelle, N.Y. The film, which stars Julianne Moore and Ellen Page, centers around a lesbian couple fighting for domestic partner benefits when one discovers she has terminal lung cancer.
For the movie, which is based off of the 2007 Oscar-winning documentary short by the same name, director Peter Sollett and the production staff had asked the Catholic high school’s permission to shoot a scene there in which the couple goes to City Hall to apply for a civil union.
At first, the all-boys school agreed to the shoot, but upon hearing about the subject matter, the school’s principal John Flaherty and the school’s president Father John Serio denied the film crew’s request.
“I respect their right to say no,” Freeheld’s producer Michael Shamberg told Buzzfeed. “But it’s sad.”
The producer also told The Hollywood Reporter that the school has approved shoots in the past, including a music video and TV commercial.
“They turned us down because of the subject matter,” Shamberg told THR. Adding that the plot was “not about gay marriage, nor are the women attempting to get married. It is about recognizing the dignity of a woman who was a brave civil servant. I believe the theme of the movie is what Pope Francis recognized just yesterday when he called for the Church to welcome and accept gay people.”
When questioned about the school’s decision, Principal Flaherty told Buzzfeed, “All are welcomed at Salesian High School. Our school chooses to embrace the social issues such as hunger, homelessness, poverty, and helping the less fortunate.”
Star Page, 27, who came out as gay in a touching speech this past February at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Time to Thrive Conference, spoke out about the school’s decision on Twitter.
“Using religion to justify bigotry makes me sad. Sending my support 2 the LGBT students at the school who I hope r able 2 find acceptance,” she wrote on Tuesday, Oct. 21.
Fortunately, the film crew found another location for the pivotal scene. Mayor Paul Rosenberg of the nearby town of Rye Brook allowed Freeheld to use his town’s city hall as a shooting location.
“The mayor personally came to the set and greeted us and introduced his teenage daughters to Julianne.” producer Shamberg told THR. “Clearly, there are a lot of different attitudes in the area.”