Stacie Andree (Ellen Page) and Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore) in a scene from Freeheld Photo: eOne Steven Goldstein (Steve Carell) in a scene from Freeheld. Photo: eOne

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This is Steve Carell as you’ve never seen him before – angry, activist and very gay.

In this clip from the drama Freeheld, based on a true story, Carell plays Steven Goldstein, a lawyer and gay rights activist in New Jersey who acted in a landmark case for police lieutenant Laurel Hester (played here by Julianne Moore) and her partner Stacie Andree (Ellen Page).

Hester had been diagnosed with cancer, and wanted to leave her estate, including her police pension, to Andree, but the elected officials of Ocean County – known as freeholders – refused to allow her pension to pass to a same-sex partner.

“What these freeholders are doing is unconscionable,” he tells Andree, Hester and fellow cop Dane Wells (Michael Shannon).

Goldstein floats the idea of a gay pride parade, to “show them we’re a force to be reckoned with”.

When Wells tells him he doesn’t understand the conservative nature of this community, calling him “Steve”, Goldstein responds: “It’s Steven, with a V – as in very gay – and when people disrespect my gay brothers and sisters, I rain terror on them. Shock and awe. Shock and awe.”

Zach Galifianakis – like Carell, an alumnus of Saturday Night Live (though Galifianakis joined as a writer and lasted only two weeks) – was originally slated for the role of Goldstein but dropped out last August due to a scheduling conflict.

The real Goldstein told New Jersey’s The Auditor he was delighted with the casting decision.

“I’m so glad Steve Carell is playing me in Freeheld, rather than The 40 Year-Old Virgin,” he said.

Though this is the most out-and-proud role Carell – who is married (to a woman) and the father of two children – has played, technically speaking it isn’t his first gay role.

In 1996, he and Stephen Colbert provided the voices of Gary and Ace in an animated superhero comedy series called The Ambiguously Gay Duo.

In 2006 he played a gay Proust scholar recovering from a suicide attempt who is forced to go on a family road trip to a juvenile beauty pageant in the downbeat comedy Little Miss Sunshine.

And in 2014, he starred in Foxcatcher as John E. du Pont, the mega-wealthy wrestling enthusiast who shot and killed Dave Schultz in 1996, and whose relationship with his protégé Mark Schultz (played by Channing Tatum) in the film is tinged with a repressed homosexuality.

Freeheld, which is based on an Oscar-winning short documentary of the same name from 2007, opens in Thursday November 5.

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