This past May, Peggy Pridemore received a phone call from a fellow film location manager referring her to a producer of a movie with the working title 1973. Pridemore, who has worked on films such as Forrest Gump, Argo, and Captain America: Winter Soldier, searched through IMDB and the Hollywood Reporter for more information about the project, but couldn’t find anything about a movie with that name. She found a short story that mentioned a film called Roe v. Wade, but not much else.
She asked the producer for more information to complete a filming permit and was sent script pages for the scenes that would take place in DC, which she said contained scenes of characters walking and talking. Pridemore said it’s common practice at this stage in the process to not receive a full script. She submitted one application for a filming permit with the National Park Service.
Still, she says, the pages she read put her off. “In the script pages, I read the dialogue and I could tell that it was a little bit biased and then I could see that it was absolutely about the decision and the process leading up to the Supreme Court decision, but I still couldn’t tell 100 percent which side of the issue it was on, even though I could kind of tell it was an anti-abortion movie,” Pridemore says. “I could tell there was something a little bit questionable.” The film’s producers, she says, concealed the nature of the movie during her conversations with them.
After doing some deeper digging, Pridemore matched Nick Loeb‘s name to the project. Loeb is an actor and producer with strong anti-abortion views who is perhaps best-known for his custody battle with his ex-fiancée Sophia Vergara over frozen embryos. On June 9, Pridemore fired off a one-line email to the line producer she’d been in contact with:
“I am a staunch, pro-abortion feminist activist and I will not be party to such horrible propaganda.”
She didn’t receive a reply. Pridemore says that while she’s had to replace herself on jobs before due to family matters or scheduling conflicts, she has never outright quit a job: “Quitting a job is a huge deal in our industry.”
In the weeks since, the film’s intentions have become clearer. In early July, Loeb gave an interview to the Hollywood Reporter, calling the case that legalized abortion in the US “one of the most controversial political decisions in history,” something “no one has really told the whole truth about…in a film.” Loeb described discovering “conspiracy theories, fake news, made-up statistics and a whole lot of people involved who switched their positions from pro-choice to pro-life,” including Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff who was known during the case as “Jane Roe.”
The cast is a who’s-who’s of Hollywood conservatives, including Stacey Dash, Jon Voight, and Joey Lawrence. Right-wing provocateurs Milo Yiannopoulos and Tomi Lahren will appear in cameos.
Alveda King is an executive producer on the film. She’s also the niece of Martin Luther King Jr. King tells Washingtonian it’s been clear from the beginning that the project had a pro-life stance. “It was never meant to be deceptive. It was very clear from the very beginning that the film was Roe v. Wade,” she says. “It was very clear all over the internet that I’m an executive producer and the footage was out there, so there was no secrecy.”
Reached by phone, Loeb echoes King’s comments. “For people to say they don’t know a script is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in my life,” he says. “Everyone knew who the directors were, who the producers were, you could just Google my name. What she did was like anybody else who quit, she went online, did the research, and decided not to do it.” He says he doesn’t know Pridemore.
According to numerous media reports, production has been bumpy since the film began shooting in June, when Louisiana State University refused to let the crew film in its facilities. Actors and other crew members have quit when they found out what they were working on. The director quit. The Daily Beast, which has reported extensively on the film, wrote that Stephen Baldwin and Kevin Sorbo, both conservatives, “left upon receiving the script.” (Loeb disputes they left because of the script; on Twitter, Sorbo called a Daily Beast story “fake news” and said the movie has a “great script.”) When the production came to Washington, a crew member confiscated a Daily Beast reporter’s notebook.
After her exit, Pridemore spoke with another seasoned location manager who had been tapped by the production team. She updated him on her work so far and also explained the circumstances around her exit because she said the other location manager could tell “something was weird.” The second location manager didn’t turn down the job, but “proceeded to make it known that it probably wouldn’t be a good fit for him,” according to Pridemore. The production ultimately passed on him. “He basically priced himself out of it,” Pridemore says. “No one ever does that.”
Loeb says the script has been cleared by lawyers and vetted by researchers and will feature both pro-choice and pro-life perspectives. “You have to read something in its entirety to make an assumption about its entirety,” he said. He lamented the media coverage the film has received, saying the “left-wing media is having such a meltdown, they’ve had to completely fabricate stories.” He pointed specifically to reporting in the Daily Beast, which also reported on a leaked copy of the film’s script (Pridemore says she did not provide it and doesn’t condone its release), writing that it’s “riddled with typos, inaccuracies and misquotations.” Asked whether he or the production had demanded corrections to stories they believe are false, Loeb says that he’s spoken to his lawyers about the Daily Beast, but he “doesn’t have time to reach out to reporters,” citing 18-hour days on the set. Before signing off, he adds, “By the way, I’m sure you’re going to run a really biased article, but thank God I’ve got this recorded so at least you’ll have to tell the truth.”
“For me, the surreptitious way that they hired me is indicative of what they think about their project,” Pridemore says. “They know their project is wrong and incorrect, therefore they will not hand out the script and they will not tell you up front about what they intend to film. That is why they hired me the way they did.”