Coming out made me more free in every aspect of my life
Since she publicly came out in 2014, ‘Juno’ actor Ellen Page has chosen roles and projects that are more personally fulfilling – such as David Freyne’s Irish zombie flick ‘The Cured’
Ellen Page: “It feels like something has changed in the industry. It has been way too long in coming. And obviously it’s not just this industry. There are massive societal issues underlying this. In terms of violence against women, how women are treated, what opportunities they get. Hollywood is just a reflection of much deeper problems.” Photograph: Smallz & Raskind/Getty Images for Samsung
We’re accustomed to thinking of Ellen Page as a badass – the spiky teens in Juno and Hard Candy, the superhero who can walk through walls in the X-Men movies, the self-appointed vigilante sidekick in Super – so, in person, the shy, almost nervous actor comes as something of a surprise.
“Oh, I don’t know,” says the Canadian-born actor. “I feel like it is really strange to talk about yourself. I’m private, for sure. But I feel incredibly fortunate for what I have. I get to do something I love and to receive what I receive for it. What I do gives me a platform. And I want to use that platform to do whatever I can as much as I can.”
Almost four years have passed since Page, who married dance instructor Emma Porter last January, made an announcement in Las Vegas at the Human Rights Campaign’s Time to Thrive conference benefiting LGBT youth. “I’m here today because I am gay,” Page told the audience. “And because maybe I can make a difference, to help others have an easier and more hopeful time. Regardless, for me, I feel a personal obligation and a social responsibility. I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered, and my relationships suffered.”
Is it outrageous to suggest that the 31-year-old actor’s subsequent career choices read like they’ve been made by a more authentic Page? Since 2014, she’s played one half of a trailblazing lesbian couple in Freeheld, a nurturing sister to Evan Rachel Wood in the eco-dystopian drama Into the Forest, a reformed grifter in the feminist dramedy Talullah, and the crusading daughter of a man on death row in the LGBTQ-themed My Days of Mercy.
“For sure, it has made me feel freer in every single aspect of my life,” says Page. “I’m so lucky to keep doing this job that I love and be able to be out.”
Out – and how. As the producer and host of VICE’s Gaycation, a travel series exploring LGBTQ lives around the world, Page publicly debated with Ted Cruz in 2015. While the former presidential candidate barbequed pork chops at the Iowa State Fair, Page grilled him on his opposition to legislation which would ban discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation.
She remains unhappy about the current administration. “Our rights are being eroded,” she says. “Whether it’s abortion rights or LGBT rights or voter suppression, it’s a really alarming time right now.”
Last November, Page revealed that Brett Ratner – the Hollywood producer who has been accused of sexual misconduct by numerous women, including Olivia Munn – made jokes about her sexuality on the set of X-Men: The Last Stand. In a lengthy Facebook post, Page recounted Ratner’s various lewd remarks. At a cast meet-and-greet, the director allegedly “outed” Page, then aged 18, by pointing her out to another woman with the suggestion: “You should f*** her to make her realise she’s gay.”
“I was a young adult who had not yet come out to myself,” Page wrote of the incident. “I knew I was gay, but did not know, so to speak. I felt violated when this happened.”
Anna Paquin, who co-starred in the film, soon backed up Page’s claims. “I was there when that comment was made. I stand with you,” she tweeted.
“Predominantly, people have been so supportive,” says Page. “I think that support is a huge contributing factor to the recent moment. And it’s more than a moment. That’s the key to its success. That you can see people supporting each other and sharing their stories. All these voices coming together that have been silenced for so long in this industry. I’ve been very fortunate with how people have responded to my story. And, as much as I can, I avoid all the stuff that I know isn’t going to be helpful to me.”
Page – who is currently shooting the Netflix superhero series The Umbrella Academy with Robert Sheehan and Mary J Blige – remains hopeful that the #MeToo movement will coalesce into genuine societal change.
“I’m optimistic,” she says. “To me, it seems a like a big shift has just happened. Obviously, that needs to go on and on and on for there to be real, tangible change. But it feels like something has changed in the industry. It has been way too long in coming. And obviously it’s not just this industry. There are massive societal issues underlying this. In terms of violence against women, how women are treated, what opportunities they get. Hollywood is just a reflection of much deeper problems. They haven’t given opportunities to many people who deserved them.”
Page is already doing her bit to remedy inequality in the film industry. The Oscar nominee is a credited producer on Freeheld, Into the Forest, My Days of Mercy and now The Cured, a new film from Irish director David Freyne. The film, which stars Page as the widowed Abbie, is a Dublin-set zombie drama. Or rather post-zombie. As The Cured begins the virus that turned ordinary Irish citizens into blinkered cannibalistic hordes has already been cured. But here’s the rub: most people are none too thrilled about reintegrating former zombies back into society. And worse, the former zombies, including Abbie’s brother-in-law Senan (Sam Keeley) can remember the things they did as “mindless” killing machines.
I think the things that I’m interested in being a part of in that capacity are just the things that excite me and interest me
How on earth does a Hollywood player end up in an Irish zombie film?
“I guess I was just really fortunate,” says Page. “I read David’s script and I was really excited by it. Really blown away. I thought it was something brand new. It was so moving and compelling. And I thought it was such an interesting idea: a zombie movie that happens after the zombie movie we’re used to seeing. So I sat down and I also watched his short films, which I loved. I just really felt grateful to be a part of his first feature in any way.”
She laughs: “And I always wanted to go to Ireland. Damien Rice is a friend of mine. And I got to go to the Francis Bacon studio and that was pretty cool.”
Does she see a pattern emerging in her work as a producer?
“I think the things that I’m interested in being a part of in that capacity are just the things that excite me and interest me. That’s what I want to be involved with. That’s what I want to develop. It’s really that simple.”
Ellen Grace Philpotts-Page was born in Nova Scotia, to Martha Philpotts, a French teacher, and Dennis Page, a graphic designer. Her parents were, she says, incredibly supportive of Page’s acting career, which began with the TV movie Pit Pony and the comedy series Trailer Park Boys. Aged 16, she was shooting the film Mouth to Mouth in Europe. By the time she was 20, the late critic Roger Ebert was asking: “Has there been a better performance this year than Ellen Page’s creation of Juno? I do not think so.”
She’s never really wanted to do anything else, she says. “I made my first film when I was 10. I remember before I travelled for Mouth to Mouth I felt a little like, whoa. That’s the best way to articulate it, I think. My parents were really cool to trust me and whatnot. But I really enjoyed it. It fuelled me. I was always excited by the adventure of it. Without sounding all insecure and actory, the most special thing for me has always been working with other actors. Feeling the transformation with a character and that feeling of being fully present in a scene. You don’t have any idea how a film is going to turn out or how it will do. So as I get older, I focus more on the experience. And hopefully, I get to keep doing that for the rest of my life.”
The Cured is on release