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The rise and rise of Ellen Page

 article about Ellen Page
2008-02-09 08:29:04
Ellen Page is without question the woman of the moment in Hollywood right now. With a Best Actress Oscar nomination recently stacked up alongside a list of achievements for her turn in ‘Juno', including being named the Breakthrough Actress of the Year at the Hollywood Film Festival, she is, to coin a lovingly overused tinseltown term, ‘hot' right now. Piping hot.


But this 20-year-old from the steadfastly unglamorous city of Nova Scotia, Canada, looks certain to prove herself much more than just the flavour du jour. The first thing that strikes you when you hear Page commenting on her burgeoning career is that she knows exactly what she is doing. No fuss, no fanfare. No giving in to the distractions inherent to Hollywood. No wasting her talents on big budget fare just for the pay packet, and certainly no exposing herself to the danger of becoming tabloid fodder first, and talented actress second. She is, essentially, the anti-Lohan.


She elucidated: "You know, I still live in Nova Scotia in a small apartment with used furniture and that's just genuinely who I am. 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."


This is a young woman who knows she controls her own destiny. It may be easy to be caught by a strong tide which has swept many fragile acting talents onto the rocky shorelines of excess and overexposure, but the way this sensible young woman sees it, everyone makes their own choices.


In an implicit dig at those who have floundered before her, she points out: "I feel like if you really want that media attention you can have it, and if you really genuinely don't want it, it's something that can be avoided. I think there is an element of personal choice."


Clearly the words of a strong-willed young woman, but cynics might mark such proclamations down as a sign of naivety, a contrasting set of character traits Page clearly shares with the character that has helped shoot her reputation into the stratosphere.

 

Juno, a teenage girl who finds her self saddled with an unwanted pregnancy, is not only marked out by her strength of will, but also her innocence.


Ellen said: "She's extremely independent, and intelligent, and so genuine, so herself, and I love her abruptness. But she's still very naive, especially in the relationship with the man who wants to adopt her unborn baby."


Jason Bateman plays Mark Loring the prospective adoptive father of Juno's baby, who finds himself confused when he discovers he has more in common with the teenage girl than he does with his wife Vanessa, played by Jennifer Garner.


Juno's flirtation with Mark, and her troubled romance with Paulie Bleeker, her longtime best friend and the father of her baby, makes for an unpredictable and touching tale.


It has certainly hit a nerve with audiences. Most years unearth a surprise sleeper hit lauded to the hills as an unearthed gem. But ‘Juno', which has so far transformed its modest $7.5 million budget into worldwide box office takings of $114 million and counting, is a cut above most of its predecessors - a fact acknowledged by the decision to bestow the film with a much-coveted Best Picture nomination at the 80th Annual Academy Awards on February 24.


Not only is ‘Juno' in the running but its runaway success at the box office makes it the most commercially successful of the five nominees – a consideration never far from the mind of Oscar-voters. Favourites ‘No Country For Old Men' and ‘There Will Be Blood' could yet be in for a surprise.


With veteran ‘Away from Her' actress Julie Christie and ‘La Vie En Rose' star Marion Cottilard making for heavyweight company on the nominations list, Page is considered an outside bet for Best Actress, but there will surely be many more opportunities for this young actress should she go home empty handed.

 

In her budding career she has already proved astonishingly versatile. ‘Hard Candy', the first film to make the movie world truly note her talents, saw Page terrify audiences as a teenage girl who captures and tortures a man she believes to be an internet paedophile in 2005.


Her ability to horrify her audience whilst maintaining an unshakeable note of believable reality in her performance made critics and industry bosses really take notice. Few 17-year-old actresses have ever displayed such ability.


Having arranged to meet Jeff, a 30-something fashion photographer she has met on the internet, Page's Haley agrees to go home with him. Apparently flirtatious, she secretly suspects he is behind the murder of a local teenage girl. And to get her confession she is methodically prepared, and painstakingly equipped, to resort to torture.


Speaking about the hard-hitting performance, Page revealed a mature approach to her craft rarely displayed by seasoned pros, let alone a teenage girl still wet behind the ears.


She said: "I wouldn't say she's evil or sick at all. I think she's an extremely passionate, intelligent young woman. I actually found it kind of inspiring in a way, and in a symbolic sense perhaps.


"I think she sees something wrong with society. She's irritated that people are ignoring it and she's going to do something about it."


That irritation with society is something Page clearly shares.


She has frequently spoken against the sort of teen princess roles usually doled out to actresses her age, which she believes both oversexualise and patronise their subjects.


She has also stated on numerous occasions that she hopes ‘Juno' can inspire girls by offering them an alternative route signposted by the lead character's intelligence and fierce independence.

 

Her astonishing turn in ‘Hard Candy' inevitably led to Page receiving offers for parts in bigger fare. However, far from having her head turned by the chance to star as Kitty Pryde in ‘X Men: The Last Stand' in 2005, Page initially refused the advances of Twentieth Century Fox. It eventually took the concerted efforts of director Bret Ratner to change her mind.


Even after featuring in the film, and garnering a positive response from critics for her performance as a mutant who can run through walls, it is clear that far from submerging herself in such films, Page's foray in the action arena was little more than a swiftly dipped toe in the water.


Comparing the movie to ‘Hard Candy', she said: "There actually isn't a comparison. There's no point in trying to compare the two. ‘X Men…' is massive, like nothing I've ever experienced, but great in its own way. I'm grateful for that.


"I wear a leather suit and run through explosions. Who gets to do that? It's fun and I'm grateful for it. It's just about changing your perspective and it's cool to do something that's the complete opposite, or something that you never thought you'd be doing. It's kind of the only reason to do it."


Plotting a career path is clearly something which occupies Page's mind, and she knows exactly who she wants to emulate.


She explained: "It might be that sometimes doing bigger roles allows you to do the smaller ones. Kate Winslet has that figured out, and she is someone I hugely admire."

 

In March, Page will begin filming on a project which merges commerciality with her more offbeat approach. ‘Whip It' represents Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, and will see Page take the role of Bliss Cavendar, an indie-rock loving misfit who finds her niche in life when she discovers a rollerskating derby league near her hometown of Austin, Texas.


Before that she can be seen in a smaller role opposite Dennis Quaid and Sarah Jessica Parker in dark comedy ‘Smart People', due for release in March.


Her performances so far means the expectations, and the fuss, surrounding Page will grow with every movie she makes. Yet despite the notorious fragility of those who find fame in their youth, this young talent looks set to negotiate it all with sublime, if utterly compelling, ease. Expect Ellen Page to be garnering Oscar nods for many years to come.




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