In this golden era of on-screen representation, nothing sells quite like a good reboot. And you can’t make a reboot for this generation that doesn’t feature some diversity and inclusion.
Ellen Page (Vice’s Gaycation, Flatliners) is preparing to lead an all-female cast in a live stage reading of Casablanca this week in Los Angeles. She’ll fill in for Humphrey Bogart as Rick, a WWII-era tavern owner, while Kiersey Clemons (Hearts Beat Loud, Transparent) will play Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa, the resistance fugitive seeking safe passage out of Casablanca. Rounding out the cast are Indya Moore (Pose) as Carl, Olivia Wilde (House) as Victor, Emily Hampshire (Schitt’s Creek) as Ugarte, and Hannah Gadsby (Nanette, Please Like Me) as Captain Renault.
With a mostly queer cast and a sapphic twist on a classic film, proceeds from the live read of Casablanca will benefit the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and their work with LGBTQ+ grassroots activism. Tickets are now on sale for the reading, which takes place December 13 at the Ace Theater in Los Angeles.
We spoke with Page and Moore about reviving this classic for a good cause and the need for LGBTQ representation in Hollywood.
OUT: I love the idea of this all-female Casablanca. Were you fans of the movie before?
Ellen Page: Yeah, I'm a fan and I just rewatched it as well, and I just got so excited all over again. You know, it's just one of those films with some of the most memorable lines and an epic love story about sacrifice. It just seemed like a really good choice for the evening.
Indya Moore: Yes, I actually saw the movie immediately after Ellen’s team reached out to me about the reading. I love the movie. I know it’s a love story but it was also hard for me to miss the various parallels between the refugee crisis in WWII and today from the civil war in Syria and Palestine to indigenous migrants seeking asylum from South America and LGBTQ people from Africa and Haiti. I found hopeful relevance in the many ways the Casablanca reading could move people in emotionally intelligent ways just enough at least to engage conversations around these important topics. I’ve definitely been made a fan of the movie.
How how did you become involved with this reading?
EP: Jason Reitman first asked me to do Empire Strikes Back, and I got to be Han Solo. I also got to do Stand by Me. I can't stress enough how wonderful, and beautiful, and special these evenings are. I just absolutely love doing this. Last year, we did a Juno live read with all women and a fantastic cast to raise money for Planned Parenthood. And this organization, Astraea, is so extraordinary, and the work they do is so amazing. I thought it would be great to do a live read supporting them. So, I reached out to Jason, and he just immediately said yes. So, I'm really excited about it.
IM: Ellen's team reached out to me about playing the role, and I said yes before I even knew what the film was. First of all, I love Ellen's work. Not only is she an inspirational and impactful talent, but she is just as brilliant a person. I fell in love with her talent when I saw her in Hard Candy.
Tell me a little more about the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and why you wanted to benefit them?
EP: The work that Astraea does is just so impactful and innovating because they're a foundation that supports and helps develop organizations, grassroots activism, these individuals and organizations that really are trying to change things for the most marginalized in our community. So, I just really respect their work and feel humbled to be involved with them in any way. I’m so grateful that we can have this evening.
IM: The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice directly reflects my core values in activism. They actively support, fund, and empower organizations that work for all intersections of marginalized people. I endorse anyone or anything that works to erase interpersonal human harm, oppression, and marginalization.
Do you think LGBTQ representation in Hollywood should be more of a priority than it is?
EP: Yea, I suppose. Things have changed, absolutely, but nowhere near enough. But to me, it's also this natural and organic process. Like I'm gay, that's who I am. So, of course I want to be able to tell LGBTQ stories, whether it's fiction or nonfiction. Also, I think you get this vibe that's like, “If you're out, then don't play too many gay characters.” And I’m like, “Why?” I’d be thrilled if every character was gay. You’re not going to say that to a heterosexual actress about playing straight roles.
IM: I think we are getting there, from Lena Waithe and Che Grayson, to Steven Canals and Ryan Murphy — Hollywood is listening, and I do believe heart and imagination are the keys to the gates of storytelling that we have been locked out of for so long. Hollywood is listening, and I think they are also grasping that differentiation and diversity sells. The more people that get to see themselves in the intersections of human experiences, the more people can relate and empathize. Marginalized people want to invest in quality entertainment where they see themselves. It stimulates the imaginations of people of privilege and power to empathize and see us in ways they may not have access to outside of entertainment. Entertainment is a profitable medium that is instrumental at influencing public perception, and I think it’s time that we take responsibility for that power by using it to promote solidarity and the reversal of marginalization.
And obviously, original queer stories are important. But do you think more existing films like this should be deconstructed or rebooted through a queer lens?
EP: That's a good question. Yeah, I'm absolutely sure that could be done in so many beautiful, amazing ways. That would be an amazing thing to see. But then of course, yes, new original content and new voices and more activity in the industry so more people are able to have opportunities and make the films and the stories that we need to see. Also, just selfishly as an audience member, those are the kinds of films I want to go see.
IM: Absolutely, that is literally putting someone in your shoes. Empathy is limited by bias, so when we switch bodies in popular narratives, it really stimulates sympathy for people of othered walks of life. When you put marginalized people in positions people of privilege hold, we get to be explored and imagined beyond our marginalization and that is instrumental for the manifestation of normalizing equality.