Rome Film Festival: Ellen Page Talks Being LGBT Role Model


The actress was moved to play a person who paved the way for the rights of LGBT people.

Freeheld, the new film from Peter Sollett, tells the incredible true-life story of police lieutenant Laurel Hester, played by Julianne Moore, who fights to secure pension benefits for her domestic partner Stacie Andree, played by Ellen Page, after she is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

The results of their fight led to the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that same sex couples must have the same rights as heterosexual couples, leading to the legalization of civil unions in New Jersey.

Based on the 2008 Academy Award-winning documentary short by Cynthia Wade, the feature length film delves into Hester’s life working in New Jersey’s homophobic police force, struggling to come out to her coworkers, fully aware of what it would mean for her career.

For Page, playing Andree was a moving experience for her. "I think it’s people like Laurel and Stacie that inspire you," said Page during a press conference for the film in Rome.

"They did something so crucial and so important and they did it in a time of unimaginable difficulty. It’s people like Laurel and Stacie that let me live my life freely. Now we have marriage equality. I can get married in the future. They inspire you to do the right thing for yourself, to be a happier person, and to be a visible person for the LGBT community."

Page, who came out last year, has been a role model in turn to many in the LGBT community as a result. She said that after sharing her story publicly, she has been approached by people around the world who were inspired by her story.  

"I’ve met people who’ve shared that it’s been helpful for them to have someone young who has some visibility come out and talk about what it means to be closeted, talk about the consequences of shame, the toxicity of being in the closet. And that it has inspired other people to come out and live their lives," she said.

"And for me I feel so grateful to have that opportunity to allow there to be positivity in anyone’s life, particularly young LGBT people, or not so young LGBT people. I’ve had interactions with people who are older than me. It’s a very special opportunity to get to have in my life."

The young actress said it was easy for her to identify with her character. "My dreams are pretty similar to Stacie. I would say I’m a romantic. I would love to share my life with someone," she said. "And I totally want a dog, and to stop traveling so much."