It’s morbidly fitting that, as we contemplate a future with some terrible Trump appointee serving on the Supreme Court instead of Anthony Kennedy, we’re also hearing more and more troubled news out of the production of a movie about Roe v. Wade.
A true historical, documentary take on that topic would be welcome, now that we’re nearly 50 years on from the landmark decision that effectively legalized abortion nationwide. The details of the film, however, look pretty damning on their face. The production is helmed by writer/producer (and now director) Nick Loeb, perhaps most famous for suing ex-wife Sofia Vergara on behalf of her own frozen embryos in an attempt to essentially force her to produce children by him. (It didn’t work.) Details of the script have leaked showing that it opens with an abortion clinic bombing and depicts Margaret Sanger as avowedly wanting to use abortion to exterminate black people.
I guess, in 2018, I really need to state she did not want to do that: Sanger did briefly try to ride the coattails of the odious eugenics movement of the early 20th Century, but a deeper dive into the facts shows she opposed segregation, worked hard to allay the fears of the black community’s skepticism toward abortion, and counted prominent African-American activists and civic leaders as supporters.
Later scenes in the film feature pro-abortion activists lying out on the beach like drunk assholes, bragging to hot women that they can make “the media” write whatever they want. One bit of staging, having already established the scene as being in Mexico, describes a secret back alley abortion clinic as having “two Mexicans” in front of it, as opposed to, you know, just two men who the reader of the script would likely already assume are probably Mexican.
People have reportedly been quitting the production after finding out these details, and some locations have even pulled their authorization for the film to shoot there. Ben Collinsworth is a director and producer based in Louisiana who worked on the production as a 2nd 2nd Assistant Director, but ultimately chose to quit the production. Speaking out on Twitter July 6, he rebutted claims made on a Fox News Insiders segment by the film’s executive producer, Alveda King, that cast and crew were being “rattled” by the rest of Hollywood and pressured into leaving.
Collinsworth told me he was hired for the production in what seemed a normal manner and ended up working just one day, scouting locations. The script and the tone of the film caused him some concern, he said.
“I began to read the script, and it sets the tone early with opening on an abortion clinic bombing,” Collinsworth said. “As I started researching what was in the script from a fact basis, things weren’t matching up. As I researched Margaret Sanger she didn’t seem to be the villainous racist that was in the script. When I read Martin Luther King, Jr. had accepted an award named after her, and spoke positively about her, reality began to be too far from ‘based on a true story.’”
The cameos also caused him to raise an eyebrow, he said, as did a line he heard from the other filmmakers in the project telling him, “Nobody is lying.”
“Tomi Lahren, Milo Yiannopoulos, Roger Stone and Anthony Scaramucci were all on our cast wall with code names and no picture,” Collinsworth said, though he was able to identify them because communicating with talent fell within the purview of his department’s duties.
The involvement of Stone and Loeb’s connections to other people whose names pop up in the news surrounding Special Counsel Robert Mueller raised red flags for Collinsworth, he said.
“Generally anything being discussed to people outside the project was kept vague,” he said. “‘It’s a pro-life movie about the Roe v. Wade case’ is about all that would be said and the ‘nobody is lying’ statement, which I heard given more than to just me.”
Collinsworth ultimately decided to walk, saying his decision to do so came after his own contemplation and speaking with his family about the prospect of having to go unemployed on principle. So far, he says, he’s been met with support.
“Everyone around me has been incredibly supportive,” he said. “I haven’t worked another show yet, but other filmmakers and colleagues have reached out and been supportive.”
Collinsworth doesn’t speak for everybody who’s left the production, but his insight is telling. Plenty of movies are “based on a true story” and take artistic liberties with their portrayal of historical events. It’s another thing entirely for filmmakers to call a project an out-and-out lie.
“I’m trying to build film and television for the state of Louisiana as an industry,” Collinsworth said. “My concern for my reputation was involved in the decision to leave. I couldn’t be part of building a lie that would last forever.”
You can reach Kenneth Lowe on Twitter.