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Ron Howard to shoot ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ in Georgia but vows boycott if abortion bill goes into effect

Ron Howard arrives at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Christy Radecic / Christy Radecic/Invision/AP)
By Peter Sblendorio Tribune News Service

Ron Howard has a big problem with Georgia’s new abortion restrictions – but not with the people of the Peach State.

The Oscar winner is one of the latest prominent filmmakers who will move forward with production in Georgia but make a donation toward the fight against a restrictive abortion bill recently signed by Gov. Brian Kemp.

Howard and his Imagine Entertainment co-founder Brian Grazer confirmed their film “Hillbilly Elegy” will shoot in Georgia next month after “much thought and deliberation.” They vowed they won’t consider production there if the law – known as the “heartbeat bill” – goes into effect at the start of 2020.

“We felt we could not abandon the hundreds of women, and men, whose means of support depend on this production ? including those who directly contribute on the film, and the businesses in the community that sustain the production,” they told the Hollywood Reporter in a joint statement.

“We see Governor 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 statement continues. “Should this law go into effect in January, we will boycott the state as a production center.”

The film stars Amy Adams and Glenn Close. Reps for the actresses did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Howard and Grazer’s statement come days after Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams confirmed they’ll move forward with production on the HBO series “Lovecraft Country” in Georgia while promising to donate all of their episodic fees this season to ACLU of Georgia and Fair Fight Georgia.

“Make no mistake, this is an attack aimed squarely and purposely at women,” they said in a statement.

The bill would outlaw abortions if a heartbeat can be detected, which can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Legislators in other states have signed restrictive abortion laws as well in recent weeks, including in Alabama where a bill outlawing nearly all abortions was signed.

Multiple producers, including Mark Duplass of Duplass Brothers Productions, David Simon of Blown Deadlines Productions and Christine Vachon of Killer Films, have vowed to boycott production in Georgia in response to the state’s bill.

Howard’s recent confirmation to THR was met with criticism from some on social media.

One Twitter user named Sandra wrote, “Donation don’t quite cut it @RealRonHoward. I understand and also empathize with the members of the crew who will suffer BUT women will LOSE THEIR LIVES and little girls will be forced to give birth. I’m taking note.”

Another user with the handle @democracy tweeted to Howard, “I just learned that you have plans to film your movie in Georgia. With all due respect, I will not be watching this movie when it is released. People that have power need to protect the people that don’t. Women on your crew will have no rights there. Not worth it.”

Jason Bateman – whose shows “Ozark” and “The Outsider” shoot in Georgia – told The Hollywood Reporter, “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.”

Democratic politician Stacey Abrams, who fell just short in last year’s gubernatorial race against Kemp, has advised the entertainment industry take a different approach than boycotts in Georgia to fight the bill.

“We have to recognize that Georgia is the only state that is such a deep part of the film industry that also has the type of draconian leadership that would seek to strip a woman’s autonomy in this way,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “That puts us in a unique position to fight back – not only against the legislation here but the legislation around the country – and to fund the defeat of these politicians and their horrible behavior by using the resources available through the entertainment industry.”