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Cher & Demi Moore use their clout to make powerful abortion film

From the AP press:

TORONTO (Sep 11, 1996 8:35 p.m. EDT) -- Tackling a topic no Hollywood studio is even ready to touch, superstars Demi Moore and Cher have teamed up to create an intense, graphic film about women deciding whether to have abortions.

Although "If These Walls Could Talk" was shown Wednesday at the Toronto Film Festival, it won't be released in theaters. Instead, it is scheduled for broadcast Oct. 13 on American cable television by HBO NYC.

Cher, in an interview, said she knew of no previous dramatic depictions of abortions as powerful as those in the film.

"I can't remember anything that even approaches this depth," she said. "I don't think you could get away with that on (network) TV."

The film is a trilogy -- separate stories depicting American society's attitudes toward abortion in 1952, 1974 and 1996.

Moore co-produced the film and stars in the first segment as a widowed nurse desperate to get an abortion at a time when the procedure is illegal. A scene in which a callous, back-alley abortionist operates on her is almost unbearable.

Sissy Spacek stars in the middle segment as a mother of four who accidentally becomes pregnant just as she is resuming her long-postponed education. She debates with herself, her husband and her eldest daughter about whether to have the baby.

The first two segments were directed by independent filmmaker Nancy Savoca, whose previous films include "Dogfight" (1991) and "Household Saints" (1993). Cher makes her directorial debut with the third segment, in which she plays a dedicated gynecologist who performs abortions at a clinic besieged by right-to-life protesters.

"We were striving to communicate the importance of the personal issues," Moore said. "We wanted to take abortion out of the political arena."

Whether or not abortion is illegal, Moore said, "inside the woman, it's still painful, it's still difficult. It takes a lot of courage to make either decision."

Moore said she was moved as she realized how many women died trying to get abortions during the era when they were outlawed.

"That's what they're asking us to go back to," she said of anti-abortion activists who want to reimpose a ban. "The shame and degradation that these women faced -- that is really what is criminal."

Cher said she looked at the abortion debate partly in the context of wondering what options her own daughter should be entitled to.

"She can't be told by someone in Washington what to do," Cher said. "It has to be the individual's choice. How could you possibly legislate it?"

She and Moore praised HBO for supporting the project and for making only a handful of requests aimed at making the film less disturbing to viewers.

"The only thing we fought about was how loud the suction machine would be," said Cher, referring to the apparatus her character uses to perform abortions. "The sound of that machine was very upsetting to people -- and it should be."

Similarly, Moore said the only question HBO officials raised about her segment regarded visual details of her character's attempt to abort herself with a knitting needle.

"I'm amazed at how much courage HBO had," Cher said. "We don't pull any punches."

Still, according to Cher, the film wouldn't have even been made without the backing of Moore -- Hollywood's highest-paid actress.

"It took someone with Demi's power and fortitude to have something like this made," Cher said. "Without that power, you couldn't do it. These topics are not on everybody's top 10 list of things to do."

Colin Callender, senior vice president of HBO NYC, said the cable company for years had been looking for a film about abortion, but until now had not found one it felt did the topic justice. He praised Moore and Cher for their commitment to such provocative material.

"I don't believe there's a studio in the world that would finance this picture,' Callender said.





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