Release Date: Unknown
Director: Bille August
Writers: Mark Bruce Rosin
Producer: Sara Risher and Anita Elsani
Executive Producer: Unknown
Based on a real-life case, 55 Steps takes place in San Francisco in 1989. Eleanor Riise (Bonham Carter), a schizophrenic woman who has intermittent stays at a mental hospital, hires a lawyer (Swank) to help her sue the medical establishment for her right to refuse invasive treatment.
“These two characters are completely opposite. It’s like a ying and yang story but they develop a beautiful friendship,” the director said.
55 Steps is based a the inspiring true story of Eleanor Riese, a mental illness patient herself, who brings a class action suit to give competent mental patients the right to have a say in their medication while they’re in a hospital, and Colette Hughes, the lawyer appointed to her case. Eleanor’s fight for justice goes all the way up to the Supreme Court of California, and, despite a stormy start and Eleanor’s difficult personality, in the process Eleanor and Colette develop a deep friendship that benefits Colette as much as it does Eleanor. Similar in tone to “Erin Brockovich,” it is a moving story about two complex women, and the rights of mental patients who, even in hospitals, and even if they’re competent to make judgments about their own care, have fewer rights than criminals. Director Billie August, who won the Cannes Film Festival Palm d’OR award twice, brings his incredible directing skills to this moving and important picture. Written by Aloe Entertainment
Filming was originally due to begin in San Francisco in October 2014, and then rescheduled to November 2015. The agent is Atlas International Film GmbH. Filming for 55 Steps finally began in April 2016. Helena was seen filming at the City Hall with Hillary Swank, who replaced Vera Farmiga.
While he plans more Danish films in the future, August’s next project will be a US-German co-production to shoot in San Francisco. 55 Steps is based on the true story of a mentally ill woman who was mistreated in a hospital. She and her dynamic lawyer take on the American hospital system. In addition to telling the case story, August says the film is also very much about friendship. “It’s a beautiful story … It reminds me a bit of Erin Brockovich. It’s that same energy. Very powerful.”
Helena Bonham Carter will play the patient, Vera Farmiga her lawyer and John Goodman the lawyer’s associate. The film will shoot in October or November. “Travelling stimulates my curiosity, and I’m excited to shoot in San Francisco,” he says.
Helena Bonham Carter…as Eleanor Riise
Hilary Swank…as Colette Hughes
Jeffrey Tambor…as Mort Cohen