Delivering the most impressive break-out performance in years, actress Ellen Page burst into the spotlight as vigilante teen Haley Stark in Lionsgate Films’ controversial Hard Candy. Well-spoken and fiercely intelligent, Page won critical acclaim before landing the role of Kitty Pride in this summer’s X-Men: The Last Stand. Dread Central had the extreme privilege to sit down with Ellen during a round table discussion.
Question: Can you talk a little bit about why this role appealed to you?
Ellen Page: What appealed to me was that there was a character for a teenage girl that was so passionate and intelligent and that’s extremely refreshing, because it’s clearly obvious the image the media can have for teenage girls sometimes. To receive a script that was very original and pretty unbelievable was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Q: Was there something in the script that really spoke to you?
EP: Yeah, what I really love about the film is that you can’t categorize it. I think we’re kind of obsessed about categorizing things, pigeon-holing life. It makes us feel safe. You can’t do that with this film. Sympathies shift and it’s not black and white, because life isn’t like that, and that’s something I really liked about it.
Q: Do you think that’s where some of the controversy stems from? That there’s some measure of moral ambiguity and that your character is not painted as a victim?
EP: I think people feel really uncomfortable, and it turns into anger sometimes because they’re not being spoon-fed answers, which happens a lot. And here you have something that’s really honest. It’s dark and it doesn’t leave you feeling safe.
Q: Were you nervous or did you feel like you had a handle on this going in?
EP: I was pretty pumped about it to be honest. I just wanted to dive right in.
Q: What did your family think about you accepting this part?
EP: They were pretty supportive, actually. My dad read the script and he was as amazed as I was. He asked, “Are you sure you want to go into this person’s head?” but other than that, he was very supportive. They’re awesome.
Q: Did you put yourself into Haley or did you separate from her completely?
EP: I think you put yourself into everything. I think you have to be – and I know this sounds ridiculous – yourself even more in the sense of attaching your heart to theirs and finding what it is about them that you can emotionally connect to and then just following that and letting them come up and find different parts of yourself in dark corners and let it over take you.
Q: Why did you turn down the role in X-Men 3 initially?
EP: I dunno. I had actually taken tons of time off after Hard Candy and went home to Halifax and graduated high school, which was awesome. I was enjoying just being me in the world and I had a great year and getting my stuff together. I didn’t anticipate shooting such a large film. So I was like, “Wow. I don’t think I’m ready for this yet.” Luckily, Brett Ratner then called me directly and we had a conversation and he told me what the film was going to be about and how excited he was, and then he got me really excited about it. Ultimately I’m very grateful for it.
Q: How was it jumping into an ensemble?
EP: I had the opportunity to work with some stunning actors, which was an honor. But at the same time, I went in there and they were wicked people. I know that sounds BS and cliché, but they were totally open and kind and all sweethearts.
Q: Brian Nelson and David Slade relayed an anecdote where you were asked to compare your character to someone in history. You responded “Joan of Arc.” Why did you pick her?
EP: I said “Joan of Arc” because it was a stupid question and it was the first thing I thought of.
She’s a passionate person who sees something wrong with society and she’s going to do something about it. And then they replied with something like, “Oh, she talks to God on the roof….” [rolls eyes] Producers.
Q: You’ve done this amazing indie and a big-budget movie. Where do you think your career is going to go?
EP: I think it’s cool to be versatile. You have actresses like Kate Winslet who went from shooting the biggest blockbuster ever to shooting to an indie film in Morocco. I have a lot of respect for that. I just shot a really small, really dark film in Toronto which was called Tracing Fragments. I like the small guys, but that’s not to say that there aren’t other opportunities. I love to do all sorts of things.
Q: How did you and Patrick Wilson plan out your roles?
EP: We only had a few days of rehearsals. We kind of just worked through the script and had an open, honest dialogue with David and Brian. Everyone was passionate and their hearts were in the right place and we just went for it.
Q: Did you make any significant changes during that time?
EP: Just little things. I think there was a point when Haley was still being funny on the roof at the end, and I thought, “Funny time’s over by this point.” Little things that didn’t feel completely organic. And Brian was so open to any thoughts.
Q: Did you create a back-story for your character?
Q: OK. [group laughter] Can you elaborate?
EP: No, I’m sorry. The whole point is that there are no answers. That’s why it’s interesting.
Q: How long have you been acting?
EP: About nine years, professionally.
Q: Are you prepared for the media attention you’ll receive from this film?
EP: I don’t think I’m gonna change on a personal level because of any of it. I’m lucky that I have really wicked parents who never pushed me into this and are very supportive. I dunno, cause I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I’m curious and I’m excited if it means I can continue working and have more control. That’s really unbelievable. I’m really grateful.
Q: How do you create a back-story for a character that you don’t know much about? What do you think about when creating something like that?
EP: Not falling victim to stereotype. It doesn’t matter what her back-story is. Really, it’s just about this girl who’s really angry about something and is angry about people ignoring it. She’s gonna do something about and she has an agenda, she’s right, she knows she’s one hundred percent right and she’s going to succeed and accomplish it.
Q: You think it’s right that she does these horrible things?
EP: No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m speaking as Haley. As Haley, yeah. Hell yeah.
Q: You think so?
EP: [jumps into full-on Haley mode] As Haley… of course! She has Plan B for Plan B for Plan B! She’s gonna beat this guy’s conscious. She not gonna hurt him. She doesn’t do anything to him. She just makes him realize that what he did was absolutely sick and that there’s no justification. None.
Q: How were you able to physically intimidate a grown man?
EP: [holds up arms] I just flashed the guns.
Q: It looked like you were legitimately scaring the shit out of him.
EP: That’s good. I think as girls, we see ourselves get sexually and physically violated a lot in television and film. It’s really nothing new to see a woman stripped naked and punched or raped or found naked in a dumpster. It’s pretty nonchalant. There’s pretty much a “Law & Order” spin-off that could be called “Naked Women In Dumpsters.” [laughter] So now, it’s your turn.
Q: How does Haley compare to Kitty? Any similarities?
EP: Of course. They’re both very intelligent, very brave, very strong. Kitty’s a little more PG.
Q: This is a really crass question, but this film might spawn some copycat behavior…
EP: Like vigilante justice?
Q: Yeah. Cause it’s loosely based on a real story. Is that a concern?
EP: I don’t think it’s really a concern of mine. That might sound insensitive. I mean, you could say the same thing for any movie at any point. People just need to have a good head on their shoulders.
Special thanks to Ellen Page, Alice Zou, and Lionsgate Films for taking the time to arrange this interview. Hard Candy opens on April 14th in limited capacity, so grab a bag of ice and head down to the theater! Before that though, be sure to check out its official site right here for more info on Hard Candy!
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