While the macabre details of some portions of the script sent the film’s original director, costumer, location scout, and once-committed actors like Kevin Sorbo and Stephen Baldwin running, the L.A. Law and Major League star likens the way he says the movie will relieve political tensions to lancing a boil.
“We are a country that is festering right now,” Bernsen said Thursday on the sidelines of a Roe v. Wade shoot at Washington, D.C.’s Lincoln Memorial. “We have a boil on the skin. And what’s happening is we’re popping it. So the infection doesn’t spread.”
But Roe, the brainchild of conservative banking heir Nick Loeb, most famous for his ongoing court battle—conveniently set in Louisiana, where the bulk of filming is taking place—with ex Sofia Vergara over their embryos, has repeatedly faced embarrassments and mishaps.
A crew member told The Daily Beast that the production has been withholding the extreme script from some cast and crew, and that morale has been very low on set: “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.” Bernsen conceded that the production has been “marred, because it’s a hot-button topic.”
The project has had to operate under the alias 1973 at its Louisiana shooting locations to avoid controversy, and some crew members have complained about directorial bumbling by the replacement directors, Loeb and production partner Cathy Allyn—both first-timers. On Thursday, before my interview with Bernsen, a Roe production intern stole my notepad and wouldn’t give it back until police intervened. Bernsen, who witnessed the dust-up, told me the man snatched my notes because “the movie’s been under great attack.
“Sometimes we grab, sometimes we talk to you,” Bernsen said.
While the Roe cast includes actors like Jon Voight, Steve Guttenberg, Jamie Kennedy and Stacy Dash, it also features conservative provocateurs Tomi Lahren, Milo Yiannopoulos and Roger Stone, the details of which were kept from some crew members.
Much of the controversy around Roe has focused on the gruesome script, which features Yiannopoulos’s character performing dozens of abortions in a few hours and a scene in a hotel room filled with “a dozen buckets of tiny fetuses and baby parts.”
Asked about the bloody scenes, Bernsen opts instead to praise a more palatable segment in the film where a sonogram is performed. Bernsen, who plays Roe opinion writer and Supreme Court justice Harry Blackmun (Lahren plays his daughter, Sally), said that he’s requested changes of his own to the script, although he didn’t specify what they are.
“I would challenge this director, and I’m looking at these directors,” Bernsen said, turning to Loeb. “What did I just tell you? Don’t put that in the film the way it’s written, the way it’s there.”
Bernsen has talked in the past about his own personal experience with abortion, describing his wife undergoing an abortion to terminate a nonviable pregnancy that threatened her own health as “the worst day of his life.” The 63-year-old actor also characterized himself Thursday as pro-abortion rights.
And while the Roe script presents a grisly portrayal of abortions, Bernsen points out that the movie faces a pressing issue with its more lurid scenes: the movie ratings board.
“If you want to get a PG-rating, you’re going to reach a greater audience, you can’t put the stuff people are complaining about in the script,” Bernsen said.