In the past, Morgan Freeman and John Lithgow have displayed their acting chops by playing God (Bruce Almighty) and a doctor from outer space (3rd Rock from the Sun). Now, they’re getting the chance to stretch a bit further by stepping into the characters of Boies, Schiller & Flexner chairman David Boies and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher appellate star Theodore Olson.
Freeman and Lithgow have been tapped to play Boies and Olson, respectively, in a one-night staged reading of “8,” a new play by playwright and Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black about the legal fight over California’s controversial anti–gay marriage Proposition 8. The reading is scheduled for September 19 at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in New York.
Boies and Olson, of course, are the somewhat unlikely pair that led the trial team representing plaintiffs challenging Prop 8 during a two-week bench trial in San Francisco federal district court in January 2010. The trial resulted in federal district court Judge Vaughn Walker (to be played by Bob Balaban at the September 19 reading) ruling that the 2008 ballot measure was unconstitutional. (Proposition 8 supporters have appealed Walker’s ruling.)
This won’t be first time actors have inhabited the roles of Boies and Olson. The two litigators famously squared off in the Bush v. Gore election recount fight in 2000, with the Boies representing Gore and Olson working on behalf of Bush. In HBO’s docudrama about the case, Recount, Ed Begley Jr. played Boies, while Olson, who later served Bush as solicitor general, was portrayed by Paul Jeans.
The former foes teamed up in May 2009 to push for same-sex marriage’s legalization in California, arguing that Prop 8 should be repealed for violating equal protection and due process rights ensured by the U.S Constitution.
Black won an Academy Award as the screenwriter of “Milk,” the film about gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk. The staging of the “8″ is being produced by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which sponsored the legal challenge to Prop 8, along with Broadway Impact. Other featured players scheduled to appear at the reading include Bradley Whitford, Marisa Tomei, and Rob Reiner.
Variety reports that the reading comes at a time when Boies and Olson are part of an effort to have videotapes of the 2010 trial, which was recorded but never broadcast, released to the public.
A Boies Schiller spokeswoman said that Boies plans attend the reading, but was unavailable for comment. Olson was also unavailable for comment.
Photo credits: Freeman, Christopher Polk/Getty Images; Lithgow, Valerie Macon/Getty Images.