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Gloria Steinem biopic puts spotlight on other women activists

Gloria Steinem has a cameo in the biopic, The Glorias. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Gloria Steinem has a cameo in the biopic, "The Glorias." File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

PARK CITY, Utah, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- While The Glorias portrays Gloria Steinem's life as a feminist icon, it also puts the spotlight on lesser-known activists who helped shape her work.

Steinem and Julie Taymor, who directed the film, said at the Sundance premier Sunday they hope it brings more attention to activists like Dorothy Pitman Hughes (Janelle Monae) and Flo Kennedy (Lorraine Toussant) among modern audiences.

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Bette Midler plays women's movement leader Bella Abzug, and Kimberly Guerrero plays Native American activist Wilma Mankiller.

"If this film at all opens up Google to Flo Kennedy [or] Wilma Mankiller, then we would be really pleased," Taymor said. "These women deserve their own films, their own library, everything. If we had a subtitle it would be: Meetings with Remarkable Women."

Four actresses (Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Lulu Wilson and Ryan Kiera Armstrong) portray Steinem at various stages.

Moore takes on the role as Steinem is leading the women's movement. In one scene, Steinem refuses Newsweek coverage because the magazine insists on putting her on the cover. Steinem wants her fellow leaders and the women marching with them to be included, although Newsweek sends a photographer to secretly grab a shot anyway.

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Today, Steinem, 85, still credits the African-American and Native American women who guided her in her advocacy.

"I learned feminism, as you can see, disproportionately from black women," she said. "It's so important that young women, old women, generations, men and women work together because we all have something different to bring."

The Glorias began as an adaptation of Steinem's autobiography My Life on the Road. It grew to include events from her life that she did not include in that book.

Steinem said she trusted Taymor with her life story and remained hands-off.

"I think my exact words were something like, 'You're a genius. You can do anything you want,'" Steinem said. "I have something better than approval. I have faith."

Since a narrative film is more docudrama than documentary, Taymor wanted to include a conversation Steinem had with Dolores Huerta (Monica Sanchez) at a different moment than it actually occurred in history. Steinem gave her blessing.

The notes Steinem had were more about personal details.

"She said, 'My house in Toledo, there was a highway in front of it,'" Taymor said.

Taymor explained to Steinem that it would require visual effects to put a highway in front of the house.

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"She gave the blessing, which is if it's emotionally right, it's right," Taymor said.

Steinem has a cameo in the film. In addition to archival footage from some of her speaking engagements, Steinem plays herself in her apartment.

"That's me typing," Steinem said. "And standing in the window, that's me."

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