“Gosnell” has had a long road to its theatrical release. The film, which tells the true story of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell — convicted on three counts of first-degree murder in 2013 — raised its $2 million production budget on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo. It’s now being released two years after it was actually completed.
Why the long wait and the crowdfunding? Mainstream Hollywood studios have been afraid to touch a film that even involves the word “abortion.” That’s unsurprising, given that the trial of Gosnell, a man who performed late-term abortions and ran an unclean, unsafe clinic in Philadelphia, was most famous for being virtually ignored by the mainstream media.
So committed are leftists in power to their beliefs that they will sweep a man like Gosnell under the rug in order to preserve a certain narrative about abortions in America.
“Gosnell,” though, is not an agenda-driven film looking to change hearts and minds. It’s a true-crime story that highlights the actions of a serial killer who used the veil of his medical practice to get away with horrible crimes.
LifeZette spoke by phone with Nick Searcy (“Justified,” “The Shape of Water”), who directs and stars in the film, about “Gosnell,” Hollywood bias and much, much more. (Searcy’s shown above in both images.)
Question: How were you approached to direct this film?
Answer: I had been friends with the producers for years. I was involved with the fundraising portion of the project, making a video asking for people to donate, and appearing on “The O’Reilly Factor” to support the Indiegogo campaign.
When the money was raised, they asked me to recommend directors. I sent them two directors I personally had worked with that I loved — people I thought would be good with this grim material. They met with them, but it did not work, for whatever reason. When they asked if I knew anyone else, I said, “I directed a film in 1997, ‘Paradise Falls,’ that won six film festival awards. Would you like to see it?”
After they watched the film, they asked me if I would like to direct “Gosnell.” I asked to see the script, and after a conference where I said what I would like to do with it, they hired me.
Q: You’ve said a few times on Twitter that this is not an agenda-driven film. A lot of films aimed at right-leaning audiences put politics before story, which sort of dooms them. Was keeping character, story and facts first a conversation you had early on [with the producers and screenwriter Andrew Klavan]?
A: We all agreed we did not want to make a polemical movie. I have always despised and rejected movies that tried to tell me what to think about a given story, rather than just telling me the story and letting me decide.
I felt very strongly, in creating the shooting script, that we needed to excise any elements that could be considered “fictional.” I thought the power of this story was in the truth of it, and we did not have to preach any position on it. I also saw no use in a movie that only one side of the heated debate about abortion could stand to watch.
Andrew Klavan’s great script contained so much information that I simply did not know about the actual medical procedures involved in a legal abortion, about the politics surrounding the regulation and inspection of abortion clinics, and about what Gosnell did that differentiated his practices from those doctors that operated within the law, that I wanted to make a movie that revealed this information in a way that was as revelatory to the audience as it was to me when I read the script. I feel like we accomplished that.
We did not make a pro-life movie or a pro-choice movie. We made a movie about a crime that happened. No matter what side you are on, you can watch this movie.
Q: When “God’s Not Dead” found a surprising bit of success at the box office, some in Hollywood started taking faith-friendly pictures more seriously. What would the benefits to the industry be overall if “Gosnell” caught on and found that same sort of success?
A: I don’t really consider “Gosnell” a faith-based movie, although it certainly does not denigrate people of faith. It simply tries to tell the truth about a very controversial subject that has become something that people who oppose each other on the issue cannot have a reasonable conversation about. I think if “Gosnell” does well at the box office, it will result in Hollywood’s realizing that there is a vastly underserved audience willing to pay money to see truthful films.
Q: This movie opens against “First Man,” which omitted the planting of the American flag on the moon. These films are almost on opposite ends of the spectrum. “First Man” is a prime example of sanitized, leftist-friendly content — while “Gosnell” is more edgy, right-leaning, and story-driven. What are your thoughts on the direction Hollywood seems to be going in, with more films sanitizing themselves so as not to offend people?
A: I haven’t seen “First Man,” so I can’t speak about it. I acted in a great mini-series in the ’90s, called “From the Earth to the Moon,” about the space race.
And in that series, there were no qualms about telling the truth that the entire point of getting to the moon was to get there before the Russians. The moon landing was an American achievement. So, if that is underplayed in a film, that would be a huge mistake, historically speaking.
I don’t mind films that offend people: In fact, I am attracted to them. But I don’t like films that distort facts to fit an agenda. Our film does not do that. I don’t know if “First Man” does or not. But people should definitely choose “Gosnell” over “First Man” [laughs]. We intentionally distorted nothing.
Q: You directed one feature before “Gosnell,” but you’ve acted for decades in a variety of projects. Was there a learning curve in directing “Gosnell,” or did the position fit like a glove?
A: I’ve been acting on stage since I was 12 years old, performing in college productions at WCU [Western Carolina University] in Cullowhee, North Carolina, when I was a fifth-grader, which is when I fell in love with it and knew that I wanted to be an actor.
However, I also began making Super 8 films in college after meeting my college roommate, Frank Garrett, at the N.C. [North Carolina] School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, who was the first person I ever knew who made his own films. I made a series of films in college, mostly silent, the most epic of which was 22 minutes long with a classical piano soundtrack. And honestly, I made most of them to try to impress Frank.
“I believe ‘Gosnell’ is an important, unique film about an event that modern-day Hollywood would not go near. I pray it will make an impact. We tried to be honest, and we put the resources we had available to us to the best possible use.”
I always wanted to make films — and I made a lot of them, cutting Super 8 film and splicing them myself.
When I finally got my film acting career going in the early ’90s, I was fortunate to work with some great directors. My first great experience was with Jon Avnet in “Fried Green Tomatoes.” I consider him a mentor to this day. All of the directors I have worked with have taught me so much — Jon, Michael Apted, Robert Zemeckis, Guillermo del Toro, Tom Hanks, Bennett Miller — I carry the lessons I learned from being involved with their projects with me all the time.
So, in all honesty, while directing “Gosnell,” I felt like I was finally doing what I should be doing. And I hope to direct more in the future.
But in Gosnell, the producers offered me a rare opportunity to make a film that was more than just entertainment. I haven’t considered everything that I have done as an actor to be “important.” Some of it was great entertainment, some of it wasn’t great, and some of it was downright silly.
I believe “Gosnell” is an important, unique film about an event that modern-day Hollywood would not go near. I pray it will make an impact. We tried to be honest, and we put the resources we had available to us to the best possible use, and I truly believe we made something profound. I can’t wait for people to see it.
See the trailer below for “Gosnell” (rated PG-13), and find theaters playing the film this Friday.