shadows features Independent women
Conversations with Juno's star Ellen Page and writer Diablo Cody
B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
juno Ellen Page is 20 years old, but she had no trouble passing for 16 in Juno. And she has used her unique physicality to great effect in a variety of rather daring roles, from her not-so-innocent teen in Hard Candy (2005) to a disturbed, deluded young woman in The Tracey Fragments (2007). And she's also had an encounter with Hollywood as Kitty Pryde in X-men: The Last Stand (2006).

Born in Halifax, Novia Scotia, Page has been acting since age 10 and earned her first Oscar nomination for Juno.

How did you get involved with Juno?
I was sent the script a couple of years ago and I fell head over heels, obsessively in love with the character. This was one of those scripts where I felt, "I need to play this person!" I love the witty, intelligent dialogue, and I was so thrilled that a character had been written like this for a teenage girl. She's unique, honest, sincere, but unapologetic, and unbelievably refreshing. And completely necessary for right now. It really excites me that this girl's out there for a lot of girls who aren't like what the popular media portrays. That's really exciting.

What did you like so much about the script?
One of the most exhilarating things about it is that, even though it's a dark comedy, it's also delicate. It would have been easy to force it and make it annoying and contrived. But luckily I was working with Jason Reitman, who I think is incredible at creating tones, and he created an excellent balance, and just guided me through it.

Why do you think the film strikes a nerve?
I do think there's this hypersexualised energy that happens with young girls, especially because so much is projected on you. You're told what you're supposed to find sexy, what to listen to, how to dress, it just goes on and on. I get pretty frustrated with how young females are commonly portrayed in popular media, but maybe with a film like Juno that will slowly start changing and people will be less narrow-minded and less judgmental. Because it is hard when you're in junior high and you don't dress like everyone else. Things get projected on you about lots of different things. It's too bad that it has to be that way. It's a drag.

How do you prepare for a role?
I'm not a big back-story person. It's more like I pretty much just try to connect my heart to their heart, if that makes sense. And just try and follow through. I don't like getting very analytical, although with some roles you have to. If you're playing a torture victim in the sixties [as she does in An American Crime], you obviously have a lot of research to do, but for a film like Juno, other than making sure I know what's going on in the bodily transitions, it's really about just connecting to her heart and making it as genuine and as honest as possible.

How do you feel about all the awards attention?
It's interesting. I mean this is what I love to do and I'm getting to do it and I can pay my rent and that's already extremely exciting. And having an award -- I don't do it obviously for those reasons, but receiving something like that just makes me think, 'Oh, wow! I might have a future, or someone might stick me in a couple more movies!'

Does it make you feel more like a Hollywood player?
You know, I still live in Nova Scotia in a small apartment with used furniture, and that's just genuinely who I am. It's not to make some judgment or statement against Hollywood. I keep my feet on the ground and just try to be as sincere and as honest as possible. And anyway, I'm pretty boring. I mean, I'm an active person, I love camping, I love hiking, I love to travel, and I love to read, and I play the guitar, and that's about it. I don't go out a lot. I'll never receive that kind of Lindsay Lohan attention because people will be like, "Here's Ellen Page with her tent going camping!" I don't really think they'll do a story about Ellen Page eating a mooseburger in Newfoundland. Everyone kind of tells you that you have to live in L.A., but I've noticed that I haven't been, and I've still been working a lot. I just love where I'm from, and I don't have to own a car.

And yet you've done a big Hollywood film, X-Men: The Last Stand.
It was interesting, obviously, though they were shooting the film for five months ,and I was sitting around a lot. But it was pretty surreal to be wearing a leather suit and running through fire or dropping 70 feet into the ground, just extremely surreal.

Would you do such a commercial film again?
It depends on the film and the role. Playing Kitty Pride was awesome because I'm five foot one and I got to be a superhero and portray this young, very intelligent woman, and that's kind of cool. So yeah, if the right thing comes up, and if doing the big movies lets you shoot the smaller ones. Kate Winslet has that figured out.

What other actors do you admire?
I'm a huge Sissy Spacek fan. I love her. I like all of her work but I really love her work in the 70s I love Badlands and I really love Carrie. I'm also a big Kate Winslet fan, I think she's fantastic, and I think Laura Linney's great too, and Catherine Keener. You know, there are so many really awesome, really strong women out there, who clearly act because they love it.

What advice would you give to a 10-year-old actress starting out today?
It sounds remarkably cheesy and corny but, like, "Be yourself, and be 100 percent honest and sincere. People will abuse you and mistreat you, and you have to be aware of that. It's easy to be young and nave and think that everyone cares about you. They don't.


Diablo Cody and Ellen Page

Ellen Page

with Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman in Juno
with Allison Janney (right) et al in Juno

as Kitty Pryde in X-men 3
with Patrick Wilson in Hard Candy
with Caleb Langille in Wilby Wonderful (2004)


shadows on the wall

2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall