Roe v. Wade plaintiff stars in abortion-themed film

Fri May 6, 2011 10:52pm EDT
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By Paul Bond

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The plaintiff in the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade is making her acting debut in a movie about a woman seeking to terminate her inconvenient pregnancy during the 1960s.

Norma McCorvey, a.k.a. Jane Roe, appears in "Doonby," a psychological thriller from British writer/director Peter Mackenzie. She plays an elderly woman who tries to talk the expectant mother out of going through with her plan.

Mackenzie wanted to cast someone with the gravitas to deliver anti-abortion dialogue without being preachy. So last year, over lunch at a restaurant in tiny Smithville, Texas, he persuaded McCorvey, one of the most controversial living Americans, to play the role, despite the fact she had never acted before.

"I thought she encapsulated American thinking on the issue," says Mackenzie.

The niche title tackles abortion head-on, taking place in modern times but with significant flashbacks to an era when illegal abortions were conducted in back alleys. The filmmakers know they've created something controversial but maintain it is apolitical -- a position that will be a tough sell beyond pro-life circles.

But plenty of small movies have turned a profit by wooing narrow demographics. "The Kids Are All Right," with its initial appeal to gays and lesbians, was made for $4 million and earned $21 million at the domestic box office; "Facing the Giants" targeted Christians and earned $10 million on a $100,000 budget; and "Sideways" appealed first to wine aficionados and took in $72 million on a $16 million budget.

Political films can be less forgiving, though. "An American Carol" was a money-loser, for example, and the jury is still out on "Atlas Shrugged: Part 1," both of which chased right-wingers.

"Doonby" -- planned for September release, though no distributor is attached -- stars John Schneider as a drifter and Robert Davi and Joe Estevez (Charlie Sheen's uncle) as the town's sheriff and doctor, respectively. It was made for $2 million and financed by a wealthy person making his first film investment who wishes to remain anonymous.   Continued...