When a child is born

Ellen Page de­liv­ers a com­pelling per­for­mance as a preg­nant teenager in the “se­ri­ous com­edy” movie, Juno. The 20-year-old Os­car nom­i­nee tells Michael Dwyer about her con­tro­ver­sial roles, Meryl Streep com­par­isons, and why she still lives in Canada

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Cover Story -

ELLEN PAGE, the bright young star of Juno, is look­ing for­ward to a busy week­end later this month. She is nom­i­nated as best ac­tress in the Os­cars, to be pre­sented on Fe­bru­ary 24th. Three days ear­lier she will cel­e­brate her 21st birth­day.

“It’s quite the co­in­ci­dence,” she says. “I’ll prob­a­bly be in Los An­ge­les for my birth­day. Turn­ing 21 is not re­ally a big deal in Canada. The drink­ing age is younger, whereas in Amer­ica it’s 21 for some lu­di­crous rea­son. As of now, I can’t have a glass of wine in Amer­ica un­til my birth­day. It’s il­le­gal.”

Page says she is “thrilled” to be nom­i­nated for an Os­car, and that Juno is short­listed for best film, di­rec­tor and orig­i­nal screen­play. Page plays the 16-year-old Juno, who be­comes preg­nant af­ter her first sex­ual ex­pe­ri­ence with a fel­low stu­dent (Michael Cera from Su­per­bad). When Juno de­cides to give up the baby for adop­tion, she sets out to find the ideal par­ents for the child who has yet to be born.

The low-bud­get se­ri­ous com­edy has be­come a big hit in the US, where it has made more than $100 mil­lion. That suc­cess has prompted a back­lash, with some com­men­ta­tors ex­press­ing con­cern over the film’s treat­ment of teenage preg­nancy. Page firmly re­jects th­ese crit­i­cisms.

“I think the film deals with it in an ex­tremely re­spon­si­ble way. I mean, no­body in the film is ec­static about the fact that this girl’s preg­nant, in­clud­ing Juno her­self, but they love her and they sup­port her. They’re go­ing to help her through it and not treat it like some grim hope­less sit­u­a­tion.

“The prob­lem, mostly in Amer­ica, is that they just don’t want to ad­mit that teenagers have sex. Even sex­ual ed­u­ca­tion in Amer­ica is hor­ri­ble be­cause, for some rea­son, they think it’s a way of, like, ad­ver­tis­ing sex. But teenagers are go­ing to have sex, and if you don’t talk about it and you don’t ed­u­cate, then what do you ex­pect is go­ing to hap­pen?”

The well-pub­li­cised fact that screen­writer Di­ablo Cody is a for­mer strip­per has been a fac­tor in this cov­er­age. “Di­ablo and I have been trav­el­ling a lot with the film and I’ve got­ten to know her well,” Page says. “She’s very funny, very hon­est, and she doesn’t care about what other peo­ple think. I have a lot of re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion for Di­ablo.”

Juno di­rec­tor Reit­man has com­pared Page to Meryl Streep, not­ing that “she can switch it on and off like a light switch”. Page points out that she had no for­mal train­ing as an ac­tor. “I just fell into it,” she says. She was 10 and liv­ing in her home­town of Hal­i­fax, Nova Sco­tia, when she was cast in a TV movie, Pit Pony. “A lo­cal cast­ing di­rec­tor came to our school to find peo­ple for the film. I was cho­sen and that led to a TVshow and then that led to some­thing else. My par­ents never dis­cour­aged me, but they didn’t push me into it ei­ther.”

When she was 13, Page was of­fered a role in a TV sit­com in Los An­ge­les, but her par­ents turned it down. “It looked very promis­ing,” she says, “but we talked about it and they de­cided against it. They felt it was bet­ter for me at that age to stay at home and go to school. It was a very good de­ci­sion.”

Proudly Cana­dian, and un­happy to be so of­ten mis­taken for Amer­i­can, Page still lives in Hal­i­fax. “For a while I didn’t live any­where be­cause I was work­ing all the time and trav­el­ling from one set to an­other. At the age of 20, I was won­der­ing where had all that time gone, and I didn’t think that was a healthy thing to think at 20. So I moved home and got an apart­ment in Hal­i­fax.”

She lives in what she de­scribes as “a con­verted whore­house”. “Yeah, it’s an old brothel. I prob­a­bly shouldn’t be talk­ing about it be­cause peo­ple can prob­a­bly find out where I live now. I think it’s haunted be­cause things keep dis­ap­pear­ing all the time. But I’m very happy to stay on liv­ing in Canada. Mov­ing to LA is not in my im­me­di­ate plans. Then again, you never know what might hap­pen a few years from now.”

Would she like to fol­low her fel­low Cana­dian, Sarah Pol­ley, from act­ing into screen­writ­ing and di­rect­ing? “The idea sounds fan­tas­tic and I would hope to make my own films some day, but it’s ridicu­lously in­tim­i­dat­ing. It’s not some­thing I would do any time in the near fu­ture be­cause I don’t feel re­motely ready for it for a long time.”

I men­tion that Pol­ley be­gan act­ing at six, was di­rect­ing shorts when she was 20 and had writ­ten and di­rected her first fea­ture film when she was 27 – Away from Her, which has re­ceived Os­car nom­i­na­tions for Pol­ley’s screen­play and for Julie Christie.

“That was great, but Sarah Pol­ley is a ge­nius,” Page says. “She is a lot cooler than I am. I have so much re­spect for Sarah. I’m so pleased about her nom­i­na­tion.”

How would Pol­ley feel if Page pipped Christie for the best ac­tress Os­car? “I can’t imag­ine that that’s pos­si­ble,” Page says mod­estly. “I’m nom­i­nated with such won­der­ful ac­tresses. I loved Mar­ion Cotil­lard in La Vie en Rose, and I adored Laura Lin­ney in The Sav­ages. I think she’s flaw­less. And then there’s Cate Blanchett. I’m in such good com­pany that it’s be­yond hum­bling.I’m still try­ing to get my head around it. I find it so strange that th­ese things are hap­pen­ing in my life right now.”

Al­li­son Jan­ney, who plays Juno’s step­mother, de­scribes Page as “fear­less”, a qual­ity ev­i­dent from Hard Candy (2005) in which Page played a 14-year-old girl who meets a 32-year-old man (Pa­trick Wil­son) on the in­ter­net. Sus­pect­ing he’s a pae­dophile, she plots to cas­trate him, caus­ing most men in the au­di­ence to squirm.

“Yeah, well, that was about time,” she laughs. “Women get to see our­selves raped and killed in movies all the time. So many movies and evenTVshows be­gin with a naked wo­man in a dump­ster. It was your turn, I guess.”

Work­ing on Hard Candy was made all the more in­tense as it was shot in just 18 days, she says. “There was hardly any time to switch off the role. You work all day, you go back to where you’re stay­ing, you get ready for what you’re shoot­ing the next day, and you go to bed. It was like that ev­ery day. But when I get to com­pletely dive into a role, it is the great­est feel­ing.”

Al­though Page has worked mostly in low-bud­get indies, she had her first ex­pe­ri­ence with block­busters when she played Kitty Pryde in X-Men: The Last Stand.

“It was a com­pletely dif­fer­ent kind of film-mak­ing for me. We were shoot­ing for a very long pe­riod of time, which I’m not used to. It felt strange at first, be­cause I was the new ac­tor in the bunch and all the oth­ers knew each other from the first two X-Men films. And on a big pro­duc­tion like

On the edge: Ellen Page in the Os­car-nom­i­nated Juno

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.