Filmmaker Ron Howard was as appalled as the next Hollywood celebrity about Georgia’s newly signed fetal heartbeat law, but he won’t relocate the shooting of “Hillbilly Elegy,” slated to begin next month.
Instead, he and his Imagine Entertainment partner, Brian Grazer, said they would boycott Georgia as a production center if the law takes effect as scheduled in January — in other words, after filming of the Netflix movie starring Amy Adams will have wrapped up.
“We felt we could not abandon the hundreds of women, and men, whose means of support depend on this production,” they said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “We see Gov. [Brian] Kemp’s bill as a direct attack on women’s rights, and we will be making a donation to the ACLU to support their battle against this oppressive legislation.”
The two producers are hardly alone. Calls by stars and activists to boycott red states such as Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky over their tough new abortion restrictions so far have failed to catch fire, with only a handful of businesses and state officials heeding the cry. They include Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, who said they would ban travel by their offices to Alabama after Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill Wednesday banning most abortions after two weeks’ gestation.
“It is my hope that this will put the ‘leaders’ of Alabama, and those of other states who may be contemplating abusing public laws for theocratic gratification, on notice that this is, indeed, 2019,” Mr. Franchot said in a statement. “Gratuitous attacks on the freedoms and the well-being of women will come at a prohibitive price.”
Ms. Griswold called on “other state and local leaders in Colorado and across the country to join me in this boycott,” but one Coloradan who has refused to jump on the bandwagon, Gov. Jared Polis, is a Democrat who condemned the Alabama law but said he isn’t considering a boycott, according to the Boulder Daily Camera.
The muted response bears little resemblance to the national outrage that greeted North Carolina over its 2017 passage of a transgender bathroom bill, which triggered a boycott that included NCAA tournament games and the NBA All-Star Game.
With the abortion bills, however, boycotters may have overreached. Unlike North Carolina, which acted alone, eight states this year have approved legislation narrowing the window on abortion, led by the fetal heartbeat bills, which prohibit procedures after a heartbeat can be detected, or about six weeks.
It’s one thing to boycott one state; it’s another to whip up outrage against one-sixth of the nation. The hashtags popping up on social media include #boycottMissouri, #boycottAlabama, #boycottGeorgia, #boycottKentucky, #boycottOhio and #boycottMississippi.
Another problem: While activists calling for a boycott, led by actress Alyssa Milano, have framed the issue as a national emergency, none of the pro-life bills is expected to take effect anytime soon, if ever, after being hit with inevitable legal challenges.
It’s the same with the Alabama legislation, which was designed specifically as a challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. In Kentucky, a fetal heartbeat measure signed into law in March was promptly stayed by a federal judge.
It’s also possible that the boycott card has been played once too often, especially in California.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, last week encouraged the boycotts, calling the Alabama law “outrageous,” but the Golden State already has a travel ban on Alabama and nine other red states over their laws on transgender bathrooms and religious foster care and adoption agencies.
For Hollywood, the call to boycott Georgia is especially problematic: The state has been nicknamed “the Hollywood of the South,” thanks to a 30% production tax rebate, drawing Marvel Studios and shows such as AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”
Only five production companies have signed on to the boycott, and none of them has a state project on the schedule, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Among them is David Simon, creator of HBO’s “The Wire,” who said his company Blown Deadline Productions would take Georgia off its list of possible locations.
Instead of boycotting, some Hollywood big shots are writing checks. Producers J.J. Abrams and Jordan Peele said last week that they would continue filming in Georgia on their Netflix series “Lovecraft County” but would donate 100% of episodic fees to the American Civil Liberties Union and Fair Fight Georgia, which are challenging the law.
Ditto actor Jason Bateman, who said he would remain in Georgia to film two high-profile projects — Netflix’s “Ozark” and HBO’s “The Outsiders” — despite the boycott effort that Miss Milano launched in March.
“If the ‘heartbeat bill’ makes it through the court system, I will not work in Georgia, or any other state, that is so disgracefully at odds with women’s rights,” Mr. Bateman told The Hollywood Reporter.
Dozens of celebrities have signed Miss Milano’s petition calling for a production boycott, but even she may not be able to honor it. The actress is now working in Georgia, where her Netflix show, “Insatiable,” is being filmed, but she told BuzzFeed that she would refuse to return unless the show changes venues.
Also cooling the boycott fire are state Democrats, including Georgia’s Stacey Abrams, who have argued that an exodus would only hurt local businesses and workers, not lawmakers.
“A boycott of our state will not impact the politicians you so hate (at least in the short term),” Patrick Millsaps, chairman of the Georgia-based production company Londonderry, said in a Hollywood Reporter op-ed. “However, a boycott will immediately hurt the high school kids in our career academies who finally have a vision and a plan of learning a trade that they can use for a lifetime.”
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