It seemed like any other film production.
On an unusually cool July day, two young women strolled along the Tidal Basin as one important-looking man walked by them to sit with another besuited man on a bench overlooking the Jefferson Memorial. The girls were dressed in ’70s garb, and the men’s faces were caked in makeup. The ensemble repeated the stroll again and again. Finally, an actor talked to the director and said he wanted to try something out because his character was a womanizer. So, on the final take of the scene, he paused to plant his feet and turn around so he could stare at the women’s bottoms before walking to the bench.
Just like any other set, save for one thing.
It was the set of “Roe v. Wade,” a (not-yet-made) movie that for the past two weeks has attracted headlines accusing the production of being “embattled,” “in chaos” and even “a total disaster”— characterizations denied and resented by Nick Loeb and Cathy Allyn, the film’s co-directors, co-writers and co-producers.
“They don’t write our point of view,” Loeb told The Washington Post, referring to the media reports about the movie’s production. “They only write what they want to write.”
The single day of shooting in Washington had already attracted a fair share of off-camera drama when a Daily Beast reporter and a crew member had an altercation near the Lincoln Memorial, which would become another of the many stories pouring out of the film’s production.
Loeb said that although the topic of the movie is controversial, he didn’t expect the actual production to be. He came up with the idea for the film a few years ago, when he realized that although most Americans know the results of Roe v. Wade, many don’t know the events preceding it.
“It is the most controversial case in U.S. history, and it’s the most controversial political topic, social topic ever,” he said. “I just couldn’t believe it wasn’t a movie.”
The producers’ stated goal is to create an evenhanded movie based entirely on facts that allow audience members to reach their own conclusions. Many outlets, however, have pegged the film as “pro-life” or “antiabortion.”
Loeb and Allyn deny this. Allyn said the “first two-thirds of the movie is pro-choice” and that every fact in the film has been double-sourced.
Perhaps the sentiment is due to Loeb’s strong personal antiabortion views, which became public a few years ago when he sued his ex-fiancee, Sofía Vergara, for two frozen embryos created before their separation.
Or perhaps it has something to do with the language on the film’s GoFundMe page, which describes the film as “the untold story of how people lied, how the media lied, and how the courts were manipulated to pass a law that has since killed over 60 Million Americans.”
Loeb said the movie is “fair and even-balanced,” while still being open about his views on abortion and his personal motivation to tell this story.
“I dated girls when I was in my 20s, two that had abortions that I really did nothing to stop,” he said. “My generation, you were really taught it was a clump of cells . . . really nothing there when a woman got pregnant, especially until you felt maybe something kick. And as I got older and more educated and more informed, I realized that wasn’t true.”
A few years later, Loeb “converted and became pro-life.” Still, though, the abortions “that I didn’t have a voice in have haunted me.”
He makes it clear that the movie isn’t faith-based — “I am not religious,” he said — but fact-based.
“I wanted to tackle this in a way where all sides of the story will be told, and the facts were laid out, and people can then make up their mind and decide on their own,” Loeb said. “I just think everybody should be armed with the facts, unlike when I was growing up.”
The film stars a who’s who of conservative actors, including Stacey Dash, Jon Voight, Robert Davi and Corbin Bernsen, as well as Steve Guttenberg, Jamie Kennedy and Joey Lawrence. Some outlets reported that provocateurs Milo Yiannopoulos and Tomi Lahren make cameos, but Loeb said he cannot confirm that.
Warring accounts of the production have emerged in the past few weeks. For example, Loeb told the Hollywood Reporter that Louisiana State University wouldn’t allow the movie to film on campus because of the script’s content and that Tulane University rescinded its permission after a day of filming for the same reason. But both institutions denied this, stating a mundane scheduling conflict as the issue.
The Hollywood Reporter also called the production secret, since it was originally being filmed under the title “1973,” but Loeb denied any secrecy. He said in an email that “like most movies we shot under a dif name no dif than Marvel movies.”
“It is common in Hollywood to have people leave projects, you know, creative differences and such,” Kennedy told the New York Daily News. “It isn’t common so much that most of it, well, probably 95 percent of it had to do with the material. People are very polarized about the subject.”
Some reporting was suspect, however. The Daily Beast reported that actors Kevin Sorbo and Stephen Baldwin “were initially cast as Supreme Court justices but left upon receiving the script.” But a spokesperson for Baldwin told The Post that he was never attached to the project, and Sorbo called the account “fake news” on Twitter and praised the “great” script in the Daily News .
Last, the Daily Beast obtained a version of the script and wrote that it “pushes conspiracy theories and lies,” which the producers deny.
“I don’t even know what draft of the script they have,” Loeb said. “How can you come out and read a script and say this is how the movie is going to look or be?”
“For the Daily Beast to say they know we’re going to show this, that or another thing . . . is completely insane,” Allyn added.
Then there was the incident at the Lincoln Memorial.
Daily Beast reporter Will Sommer had visited the set to report on the production. He said he identified himself as a member of the media to some of the crew and an actor and watched a scene with fellow onlookers. “But as the cameras rolled, a man later identified by police as a member of the crew came over to where I was sitting in public space with a group of tourists and grabbed my notepad out of my hand by force,” Sommer wrote . The producers told a different story, claiming he didn’t identify himself.
“Suddenly, a guy that was kind of posing as a tourist walks right into the scene with a pen and a notebook and started trailing [the scene’s two actors] and writing down the lines word-for-word that they were saying, while we were shooting,” Allyn said. “He literally walked on camera.”
She said that an intern “ran onto set and grabbed the notebook out of the guy’s hand, because everyone is panicking. The reporter finally identified himself . . . and [started] dropping f-bombs.”
A screaming match ensued, eight seconds of which Loeb posted to social media.
They added that the Daily Beast never reached out to the film’s producers nor asked to visit the set.
Sommer, meanwhile, said, “The story I wrote is an accurate account of what happened.” He also shared an email in which Bernsen, an actor who was on set that day, wrote, “I wish you the best and again, apologize for the ‘incident’ yesterday. It was obviously counter to all things mentioned here.”
The only thing that’s certain is this production has received more press than many independent movies do, even after they’ve hit theaters. For all the reports, though, all Loeb and Allyn want is a chance to make their film in peace.
“I think the media needs to reserve judgment for when we screen the movie,” Loeb said.