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Looks can be deceiving. Take, for example, Ellen Page. The 26-year-old actress stands only 5'1" tall but has made it clear through her choice of roles that she is a force to be reckoned with: In 2005's "Hard Candy," Page played a young girl who makes a pedophilic photographer pay for his distasteful taste. In "The East," out in limited release this weekend, Page again plays someone looking for revenge — this time, she stars as Izzy, a young woman who is part of an underground group seeking revenge by any means necessary on harmful corporations.
Page co-stars in the film alongside Brit Marling, who co-wrote the script with director Zal Batmanglij, and Alexander Skarsgard. We caught up with Page in New York City ahead of the movie's release to talk about her directorial ambitions, feminist roles and what she could contribute to an underground anti-corporate group.
"The East" was really an amazing movie, and so suspenseful. What was your first interest in it?
Well, my first interest was I'm a huge fan of Zal and Brit, I'd seen "Sound of My Voice" and was so amazed by Zal's script and Brit's work in that, and her performance in "Another Earth." I was just like who the hell is this person? And then I read a script that was beautiful and compelling and entertaining and thrilling and all of those things, but also full of so many ideas that I'm already interested in and think about. I went and I met with them, and they're just the loveliest people with incredible creative intent and passion and purpose for telling stories. It's very infectious. I really wanted to be a part of their body of work.
Was it intimidating to act alongside Brit, knowing that she'd written the script?
No, because Brit's just not like that. I don't think you could meet anyone more egoless and selfless. It was nice in the sense that if you did want to talk about something in regards to Izzy and her friendship with Benji or how she relates to Sarah, etc., it was nice to be able to talk to Brit and Zal. They're so open and so collaborative, so that was nice. Brit and Zal obviously have this really intense collaboration period when they're writing, but when they get to set, Zal's very much the director and she's very much acting. You don't feel that at all because she's not like that. Of course, you always want to hope you're doing your job well, but ...
You're also really active on Twitter. What would you tweet to get people to go see the movie?
I think if they want to be thrilled and entertained and moved and see something different ... it's not a very good tweet, but #TheEast. I feel like the film, first and foremost, is an entertaining espionage thriller that I find relentlessly suspenseful. So I think people will dig it. And I hope people go see it.
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What kind of skills would you have to offer an underground group like The East, the one you're part of in the film?
Um, I can roller skate? What could I offer ...
I could hide. I'm tiny. Yeah, and I think like I'm small and when you're like a small female that looks young, you're always sort of underestimated and spoken down to in this way. So maybe I could surprise people with something. I don't know what.
Between this and "Hard Candy," people should not underestimate you. When people recognize you on the street, what do they say to you?
Yeah, I get recognized sometimes. Most of the time, people are super super lovely and nice.
Do they Juno you?
Yeah, I get Juno-ed sometimes. Less than I used to, but sometimes I'll get like (deep voice) "Juno!" But I don't turn my head, I act like I don't hear it. [laughs] No, are you kidding? I'm so proud of that movie and everything it became, and obviously it changed my career. But no, everyone is typically so nice and lovely. It's always nice when someone wants to share positive things that you've done.
You brought up "Whip It," which is an underappreciated movie that I really love. Do you still have your roller skating skills?
I do, yeah. I spent, I just saw Alex Cohen, who's an NPR host in L.A., was my trainer, Axles of Evil is her name, and I just saw her the other day in L.A. I loved that, and I'd love to do a movie again where, from scratch, I have to learn something that intense. I'd never been on roller skates, I'd been on roller blades before, so to go from that lack of ability to be able to roller derby and to have that experience and train constantly was so much fun. I was super into sports when I was younger, and an athlete.
What sports did you play?
Soccer was the main sport. I played like badminton and basketball.
You're Canadian too, did you play hockey?
You know, I wish I played hockey, especially ten years ago — oh my god, I don't know why I said ten years ago, I was thinking back to mostly when I played soccer — but when I was like a kid kid, it's not really, there weren't that many girls playing. I really wish I had. My brother played hockey and I wish I had. Toronto and Montreal both just got knocked out of the playoffs, so.
Do you follow hockey?
Not really, but I just went home to Nova Scotia recently and was watching hockey with my mom, it was fun.
You seem to have a lot of Canadian pride. What's the most pro-Canadian thing you can think of?
Well, Canada has a lot of problems, believe me. We're awful with the environment and First Nations communities, but you know, I like how at least in Canada, we take care of each other a little bit more. We have public health care, gay people can get married, weed's decriminalized, you know. I feel grateful to come from a country where there's sort of less fear and animosity and you're not having debates about birth control and whether or not women have choice. I feel grateful to be from a place that maybe leans a little more that direction.
And I hear that you're looking into directing as well.
Planning on it, yeah.
You've worked with a lot of amazing directors. What's the best thing that you think you've learned from them?
Oh, wow. I don't know. To be honest, it's really intimidating. it seems like a really hard job. Hard because the work is overwhelming but also because it's isolating. It's like everyone else on a set has a very specific job that they're doing, and they're coming to you with their very specific reasons for their very specific purpose. Whereas the director is the only person who, by themselves, is looking at the entire picture. I can see where it could be just so challenging. My favorite directors have been ones that are assured and know what they want but are so open to collaboration and create an energy on set where you get to feel creatively free and safe and supported. Yes, I've been very fortunate to work with some very lovely people.
Christopher Nolan, no problem.
Yeah. Amazing. And just the loveliest, most egoless person.
And this directing project is with Anna Faris?
Yeah! It was written by a woman named Julia Hart, who's an incredible writer and it's an absolutely beautiful, beautiful script with a beautiful story. It's really early.
Do you feel an obligation to play feminist roles?
Yeah. And it's funny because it's a responsibility, I guess, but it's also my personal feeling and choice. I know that I was always excited to see, when I was a kid, to see girls and women in movies that offered a different perspective to the sort of very narrow lens of how women are usually portrayed and seen and expected to be. It's something that I've always pushed for for the roles that I've wanted to play, or even when I've gotten the role, pushed for how I want to dress, and how ... yeah, it's absolutely important to me, just because it's naturally important to me as a person and I don't know why a woman wouldn't be a feminist. It doesn't make sense to me. Or a man, for that matter.
You're coming back for the new "X-Men" with Bryan Singer. Is it strange to be in the same franchise with a different director?
No, because I only did one other movie, and it was so long ago that I wasn't expecting a call to play Kitty Pryde again. Bryan's fantastic. I don't know how he does it, I really don't know how he does it. This movie is so ambitious, it's going to be really cool. He was great to work with.
Will you take a selfie for us?
Ugh, I don't know if I've ever taken a selfie in my life. I don't think I can. I'm sorry, I'm just a little too disgusted with who I am.
Using the formula of your first pet and the street you grew up on, what would your porn name be?
Oh, Fido-Dido Columbus. I had two turtles named Fido and Dido, so I feel we should combine the two.