Interview: Super's Ellen Page

At only 24 years old, Ellen Page has accomplished quite a bit. She’s done everything from earning an Oscar nomination for her performance in Juno, to being a part of a major Hollywood blockbuster in X-Men: The Last Stand. It’s about time that she act a bit loose and go totally crazy, and that’s exactly what she gets to do in James Gunn’s Super.

I recently had the chance to sit down with Page as part of a roundtable interview and discuss her venture into the world of the average superhero. During our chat we discussed what it was that drew her to such an insane character, what it was like working in the blistering cold, and working with Gunn as a director. Check it out below!

So how is it to play this, well I’d say “kick-ass” but that just sounds like it’s from another movie, this character?

So much fun. Look, it was one of those things that I just have so much gratitude for. I’m so grateful that James wrote a role like this for a young woman, because I’m sure we can all agree that interesting roles for young women can be far and in between and then, getting to do this with Rainn and James, it’s just so much fun.

This role is pretty different from anything you’ve ever done, what was it that really kind of sparked you to it?

To wanna do it? Well, just that reason. It’s something that I felt like I hadn’t done, nor had I really seen before, and the opportunity to play someone that has so much kind of extreme qualities and is really, as an actor you have to make some really distinct choices and just go with it, and there’s kind of like no looking back. It’s about completely letting yourself go and really making a fool out of myself, and really having to just forget about ego and lose yourself, I mean that’s why I do this. That feeling is really, really special and why I love being an actor. So it’s just a dream, as an actor.

Physically, was it, the role, I assume, was challenging when you’re doing all your back flips and whatnot? Did you train for that at all or prepare?

Those were all my natural, sweet moves. I love playing roles that are physical, absolutely love. Whether it’s just that kind of basic level of physicality or whether it’s stunts. I just love it, the experience of shooting Whip It was amazing for that reason, and this, and even a film like Hard Candy or something, that’s just really physical. And shooting something that is a very low budget, short shoot I really enjoy too, because it’s just like, completely on your toes, go, go, go, and I really like, I mean I loved the experience of Inception which took five months. I mean that’s amazing, it’s just so different. And I also really like, kind of the bare bones, just fly by the seat of your pants. It’s really fun.

Boltie is described as crazed, I love that description. Is that the way you sort of approached it, or did you kind of think that maybe she’s just misunderstood? What was your angle on her?

My angle as Ellen, I mean because when I read something I can’t judge the character first and foremost, because I gotta just absolutely connect and then for me, and that sounds so actor-y, but you know, connect with and then let something come from that. But yeah, to step back, you have to make distinct choices of, there’s something, I don’t want to say “wrong” with this person, so I’ll put that in little air quotes, but “wrong,” you know? She has some mental issues, I mean from the get-go she doesn’t have a great, she doesn’t really understand personal space well and she says inappropriate things. So I think we see this kind of sociopathic kind of person that wearing a costume, ends up becoming a full on psychopath who love violence and feels very little, if no remorse, really.

You talk about her not having physical space and then it brings, of course, to mind the scene between you and Rainn. How difficult was that scene for you?

You know a little, I don’t want to say difficult, because I love being challenged, that’s always what I want, but I remember, like I’d done quite a few sex scenes actually, for my age, which is interesting. And done some scenes where I’m the one being, I’m the victim. That, despite it being kind of emotionally draining or whatever, it’s easy in the sense that, I think we all can associate how a victim feels. We can all associate with what fear is. And I remember sitting before I was about to go out and try and do it the first time I was like, “Wait a second. Not only have I never, ever been any kind of like a sexual predator in anything, it’s just like so, I can’t I don’t even know how to wrap my head around this,” like it was very interesting to think about because it’s just so not who I am. I’m not a sexual predator. So it was definitely a kind of like, plugging your nose and closing your eyes and just jumping in. And then I have the incredible fortune, though, of doing it with someone like Rainn, who I love working with and trust immensely, and the same goes to James. And again, what an amazing opportunity to forget about yourself, you know, and just go.

James comes across as a very excitable, high energy, guy in his work and in person, and yet this film is seated with kind of like, there’s an undertone of melancholy to it. I’m interested in maybe, what sort of discussions you had about the thematic undertones in the story that are more melancholy?

I’m trying to think of what distinct discussions we had. I mean I think the interesting thing with Libby versus Rainn’s character is Rainn’s character has an element of depth, or moral debate, of ethical questioning, and then obviously the religious undertones that go with his character. Libby, pretty devoid of that. There’s not a whole lot of depth when it comes to her violence and her desire to do what she’s doing. She’s just, absorbed into this fantasy, and is clearly a psychopathic kind of person who is really enjoying being violent. So there’s less of that dialogue when it comes to that moral dilemma, because she’s just, pretty one-note in that sense. But when it comes to, yeah, her bond with Rainn’s character I think it’s really beautiful and touching. And she really loves him, or at least loves the idea of what’s occurring and I’m sure it’s giving her a sense of freedom and purpose that is obviously motivating her. But I think she’s much more straight forward in her lust for blood than Rainn who, you know, believes he’s been chosen by God, Holy Beloved, to do his thing.

This is actually the second movie you’ve done with Rainn, since he had that small role in Juno. Do you guys have an established relationship when you started shooting this film was it the first time you’d seen each other since then?

No we’d seen each other a couple times. I mean Rainn, despite working less than a day on Juno, we had a really good time together and I think a natural connection, similar sense of humor, and he’s someone that I always have admired for his work and also just as a person. And so we’d seen each other sporadically, parties, events, those kinds of things, and I just always really liked him. And we always enjoyed talking to each other. And so starting this film, there was already that underlying trust and it just grew and grew and grew. I can’t say enough good things about the guy, I just love him. And I loved every moment of working with him, every moment, pure joy.

Even in the truly terrible cold?

Even in the cold. Because, you know, boo f-ing hoo. In the moment, look, don’t get me wrong, there were some days of like, wow. And I’ve shot in Prince Edward Island winters, I mean, I’ve shot in some intense, intense temperatures. But you’re wearing a spandex costume and you’re trying to make it look like it’s summer when it was, whoa.

Like you can see the breath billowing out.

Oh, not just breath. Like I can’t form words. But those are moments when you just, you gotta just slap your head in the face and really think about relativity what most people in the world deal with. You gotta really, like, I can’t let myself complain about something like that.

Can you talk a little bit about the writing project that you…

Oh, Stitch N’ Bitch? Alia Shawkat and I, and our friend Sean Tillman who’s an amazing musician, Har Mar Superstar, wrote this show. Alia and I had the idea when we were shooting Whip It together, obviously she’s an incredibly talented actress. Essentially it’s about two girls, they’re best friends and they move from Williamsburg to Echo Park/Silver Lake area in LA, and they’re hipsters, essentially to become artists of any kind, really, but they have a band called Stitch N’ Bitch. And yeah, HBO bought the show, we’ve been developing it with them, and you know, hopefully it will but it’s still pretty early in the development process. These things, they take a while.

What kind of experiences from acting did you take into the writing process?

I think, because I’ve been working for a while, I’ve been working since I was ten, I had the fortune of reading a lot, a lot of scripts. And you see things that work and things that don’t work so much, so I think kind of naturally you want to, you know. And I don’t know, I know what I like to see, I feel like I know the format and the structure slightly. I think it’s probably that straight forward, it’s just what I’ve been surrounded by for fourteen years.

I would like of ask if there is any current interest that you have that you are geeking out about as much as Libby geeks out about comic books?

That I geek out about? Oh man. The stuff that I geek out about, I probably spend most of my time, right now...I really hope that we’ll have a sustainable future on this planet, I really do. So I probably geek out mostly about learning more about how potentially we can hopefully make that happen, hopefully we’re not too far lost. And so, yeah, I just watched Gasland, which is phenomenal and it made me really sob and lose my mind a little bit. And so, that’s probably what, lately, and I read a lot about permaculture farming.

Oh you were talking about that on the Tonight Show, I think, like a year ago.

Yeah. So I studied that a little bit, and hopefully will make that a bigger part of my life, and do what I can to talk about sustainability.

I loved your commercials on CISCO, how did you get involved in that?

They asked, and at first, you know, it’s a weird thing to think about, never something I necessarily thought would happen. But you know what, they’re a rad company and do amazing work. They do a lot of great work for climate change and monitoring a lot of the environmental impact of that, as well as amazing education programs around the world and I think their technology can be extremely beneficial. For example, I just sponsored a soil conference in Nova Scotia, which is where I’m from, to talk about the integrity of topsoil and how it’s a depleting resource. There’s a really great documentary about that called Dirt. It’s something I’m really passionate about. And I was in Austin for SXSW and I set up this amazing live feed so I could be there and do that. I think potentially their technology can really help. And they gave me so much freedom with those commercials, it’s like really fun, I get all my friends, everyone you see are friends of mine. So it’s really, really fun.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.