On Tuesday, The Hollywood Reporter published a strange piece about a secretive anti-abortion movie currently filming under a “fake title” in New Orleans.
The story, told primarily from the perspective of the film’s writer-director-producers Nick Loeb and Cathy Allyn, revealed that the title of the project is Roe v. Wade; that it chronicles “the 1973 Supreme Court decision that guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion”; that it has a “pro-life tilt”; that the conservative pundit Stacey Dash will play Mildred Jefferson, a founder of the National Right to Life Committee; and that several other outspoken conservative actors are portraying Supreme Court justices, including Jon Voight and Robert Davi, along with Corbin Bernsen, John Schneider, Richard Portnow, Wade Williams, William Forsythe, and Steve Guttenberg. Filming reportedly began on June 15 and hopes to wrap by July 15.
THR’s piece also cast the filmmakers as victims, detailing their struggles to secure filming locations and keep control of cast and crew who objected to the “PG-rated” film’s “pro-life tilt”—a particularly hot-button issue in light of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s recently-announced retirement and the precarious state of Roe v. Wade.
What the THR piece failed to disclose is why the cast and crew of Roe v. Wade have been quickly dropping out of the project, as well as the project's true nature—including several graphic scenes depicting aborted fetuses, according to several crew members who spoke to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals.
Roe v. Wade is currently filming under the title 1973. Crew members have told The Daily Beast that the filmmakers have misrepresented the project from Day 1, distributing a “whitewashed synopsis” to location contacts in order to convince them to film at their respective spots. “Tulane University has been the only main [location] where we started shooting there and then they found out what the movie was about and kicked us out,” one crew member said. “There are other locations where they’ve just said no. The whole attitude on the project has been, ‘Don’t tell anyone any more than you have to tell them.’”
This attitude extended to members of the supporting cast and crew, many of whom were told that the film was a vaguely pro-life project tackling the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case “from another perspective,” only to arrive on set, view the script, and be shocked by the extremity of its point of view. “When I read the first two pages, I was like what the fuck is this?” one crew member told The Daily Beast.
The film’s director and first assistant director dropped out on the first day of shooting, forcing producing partners Loeb and Allyn, who co-wrote the screenplay, to assume directorial duties. A costumer, location manager, and several other crew members abandoned the project upon learning of its severe anti-abortion content.
“They’re not keeping people in the loop with the script,” one crew member said. “When people finally receive the script, they’ve dropped out really fast. After people started dropping out, they said, ‘OK, don’t send people the scripts anymore.’ Instead, they’ve been changing lines and scenes before they shoot.”
Conservative actors Stephen Baldwin and Kevin Sorbo were initially cast as Supreme Court justices but left upon receiving the script. “That’s where it started as far as not sending out full scripts to actors, because they backed out and then it was a mad rush to find people to be the Supreme Court justices, and when they got on set they had no idea what they were doing. They didn’t get their lines until they got on set. They were kept in the dark,” according to a crew member.
“It’s a low-budget film. People are taking rates that are less than they’re used to; they’re being cheap with everything,” the crew member added. “There’s Jon Voight and very strong ties to the Fox News crowd. We’ve got Joey Lawrence, Jamie Kennedy. Just looking at our cast of people, this isn’t playing out like a low-budget film. There are a lot of big names flying in and doing favors to Nick [Loeb].”
Kennedy plays abortion-rights leader Larry Lader, while Lawrence is Robert Byrn, a Fordham University law professor who fought against abortion. Other cast members include Greer Grammer (daughter of Kelsey) and Justine Wachsberger as Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, the attorneys representing Norma McCorvey, aka Jane Roe; Lucy Davenport as Betty Friedan; and Loeb himself as Dr. Bernard Nathanson, an abortion doctor and co-founder of National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL) who later became an ardent anti-abortion activist. Loeb also narrates the film as Nathanson in a nod to the controversial 1984 anti-abortion film The Silent Scream.
But two members of the Roe v. Wade cast have been kept secret from much of the cast and crew: Tomi Lahren and Milo Yiannopoulos. The right-wing trolls have been cast in one-scene cameos, with Lahren portraying Supreme Court Justice Blackmun’s daughter, Sally, a Planned Parenthood volunteer who challenges her father (Blackmun penned the court’s opinion on Roe v. Wade); and Yiannopoulos as Dr. David Sopher, a British abortion doctor who invented the Sopher ovum forceps and “who’s performing abortions and feels they don’t matter,” according to a crew member.
In Yiannopoulos’ yet-to-be-filmed scene, Dr. Nathanson (Loeb) witnesses Dr. Sopher (Milo)—who is described in the script as “an Anglo-Jew from India, with an unusual habit of an awkward giggle at the end of every sentence”—perform 32 abortions between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., an alleged event Dr. Nathanson recounted in his book The Hand of God. “You blokes are missing out on a fortune over there in the colonies,” Dr. Sopher tells Dr. Nathanson after performing the procedures.
Most other cast members are not aware that Lahren and Yiannopoulos are making cameos in the film. “There aren’t even pictures up of them in the production office,” a crew member told The Daily Beast. “Somebody requested that no pictures of them be up.”
There is also the matter of Loeb and Allyn’s directorial abilities. Crew members claim that, given that it’s their first stab at directing and they have little filmmaking background, their incompetence has left some actors frustrated.
“The first day of shooting, the actual director and the first AD quit. So then they decided that Cathy was going to be the main director, and she has very little experience, so she and Nick have no idea what they’re doing. Shots aren’t being set up right, and there have been communication problems with the cast,” the crew member recalled. “There was a moment where Joey Lawrence was trying to do a scene and Cathy said to him, ‘Now make a face like this,’ and he called her out and said, ‘That’s not what a director does. You tell me what I’m feeling and where I’m coming from, you don’t just say to make a face.’ A lot of actors are fed up with it because it’s amateur hour.”
Roe v. Wade is executive produced by Alveda King, the conservative commentator and niece of Martin Luther King Jr., but crew members say she’s been scarce. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her on set, which is interesting,” one crew member recalled. “It’s very weird, because there’s the main people, Nick [Loeb] and Cathy [Allyn], and then now other producers are coming in out of the woodwork for money reasons. They’ve been keeping the producers very secret.”
“The mood is that, you have Fox & Friends, and the ‘Friends’ are the ones producing this movie, basically,” the crew member added.
The production chaos has left morale among members of the Roe v. Wade crew—the ones who remain, that is—very low.
“I don’t think there’s a single crew member that thinks, ‘Oh, this is a great idea for a movie,’ it’s just being treated as another job, but nobody really wants to go to work the next day,” said one crew member. “It’s summertime and people need work. A lot of people have quit, a lot of people have been fired. The thing about quitting or being fired is they’d just find another person to do it.”