Cher on 'Edith+Eddie': "They Were Not Treated Like People"

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The singer weighs in on the need to protect the rights of the elderly, as explored in the Oscar-nominated short doc about a nonagenarian romance that she executive produced.

Cher isn’t necessarily a name you’d expect to see listed as an executive producer on an Oscar-nominated documentary short, but that’s exactly what happened after the 71-year-old icon got involved with Eddie Harrison and Edith Hill, an interracial couple who got married in their 90s — then were forced to separate by Hill’s family, as Laura Checkoway’s heartbreaking doc Edith+Eddie reveals.

How did you first hear about Edith and Eddie’s story?

It was on television. It showed this man and this woman dancing, and they were just so lovely, they were such a beautiful couple and so happy and kind, and then it was all the bad stuff.

So you decided to help?

I called my lawyer and said, “Get into this and work on it,” because I don’t want to see this couple separated. They’re too fabulous, and I just don’t want to see anything bad happen to them. I was going to have to retrofit their house so that they could stay there, which really was making some repairs and putting a full bathroom downstairs. Then things started to change. All of a sudden, they had to renovate the entire house. It was now up in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. And then, while we’re trying to figure this out, one night, [Hill’s guardian] comes with the police and drags her out of the house.

Did their story have any personal significance for you?

I took care of my grandmothers, I take care of my mother. It’s very expensive, and thank God I can afford to. But both my grandmothers said to me, “Don’t ever put me in a home.” Then my grandmother put my grandfather in a home; she made it seem like it was nirvana. I went to visit him, and I saw all these people just warehoused in this place. My grandfather didn’t speak the whole time I was there. I turned to him and said: “I am getting you out of here. I don’t care what anyone says.” And the only thing he said to me the whole time I was there was, “Don’t delay.” I got him out of there. I wouldn’t put anybody in that home. I know that people don’t have the funds, but warehousing our parents is just not right.

What did you think of a film being made about their story?

That was the only thing that stopped my heart from breaking completely. Because I thought people will be able to see their beautiful story and then how they had no control over their lives. They were not treated like people. They weren’t treated with the respect that age demands.

What do you hope the film does?

I don’t know that people care enough about older people. But I think people will watch it and feel emotion and think of their own grandparents. When they see it, people will be moved. Because how can you not be? I am sure that people will be moved. But we have the attention span of a fruit fly, OK? So, you know, what happened yesterday? This is going to be, like what? A 48-hour news cycle? Everyone’s going to be so upset and outraged and brokenhearted and all that, and then it will fade until the next one. But it won’t stop me.

A version of this story first appeared in a February standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.