The production crew for "Iron Jawed Angels" has come to town, and time is their enemy: Filming for their HBO movie about Alice Paul and her fight to win voting rights for women will begin here later this month. Meanwhile, Robin Forman and Len Amato, two of the movie's three executive producers, are on the phone with a reporter, trying to drum up a little publicity for their film and to let Richmond know what's about to hit town.
If you get out much, you're sure to run into the moviemakers - and stars Hilary Swank, Anjelica Huston and Patrick Dempsey at some point. They'll be filming scenes all over central Richmond the Governor's Mansion, the State Capitol, the Science Museum, the senior center on Monument Avenue (between Mulberry and the Boulevard) and even on Broad Street (between Monroe and Adams streets), where they'll stage a parade.
"Our film takes place between 1913 and 1920 in Washington, Philadelphia and New York," says Forman. "We needed a city that could double for those period locations, and Richmond has an incredible architectural heritage."
1913 was when Alice Paul and others formed the Congressional Union for Suffrage, which later evolved into the National Woman's Party. They were militants who put their lives at risk. They picketed the White House, were arrested and locked up. At one point, Paul went on a hunger strike and was force-fed by her jailers. In 1920, they won their fight and the 19th Amendment became a part of the U.S. Constitution.
"There's a parallel here for our times," Amato says. "Alice Paul continued her protests during World War I and paid the price in the fight to win the right to vote. And today, people are again paying attention to civil liberties" because of the war on terrorism, he says. "The price is ..."
Forman interrupts: "It's a choice she made, to focus her whole life on the fight for women's rights, to the exclusion of all the other choices she might have made." Amato picks up the thread again: "She is a modern heroine who lived in an era that today we only think of in clichés."
Paul's battles didn't end in 1920. She led a peace movement during World War II, and she was the author of the Equal Rights Amendment. She died in 1977 at the age of 92.
"Her story is about more than women carrying signs," Foreman says. "It's about courage, persistence and tenacity."
"I hope it inspires," Amato adds.
HBO has not yet announced an airdate for the movie.