In the summer of 2006, it was safe to guess that an increasing number of North Americans would recognize Ellen Page from one of three very different performances. Perhaps you know her as teenage mutant Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat in X-Men: The Last Stand, the third of the successful X-Men feature films. Maybe you recognize her from the cult Canadian television series The Trailer Park Boys. Or you might have seen or heard about her predatory performance in the controversial film Hard Candy.
Judging by these three notable performances alone, Page has been able to navigate the often-dangerous path of the young actor. Unlike many of her more high-profile contemporaries, she has been able to avoid lightweight romantic comedies, stylized television dramas and tabloid notoriety.
Born on February 21 1987 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Ellen Philpotts-Page developed a love of performing as a child and by the age of 10 had found an agent. As a young girl, she attended Halifax’s acclaimed Neptune Theatre School, and at 10 years old starred as Charlie Bucket in a staged version of Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. Shortly afterwards, she won her first onscreen role in the Cape Breton-set CBC-TV drama Pit Pony (1997), playing Maggie McLean. Pit Pony earned a number of nominations and awards during its two-season run, including Gemini and Young Artist Award nominations for Page.
A short time later, she appeared in the pilot episode of the short-lived sitcom Rideau Hall, and in two episodes of the award-winning Showcase series Trailer Park Boys. As Treena Lahey, daughter of Sunnyvale Trailer Park’s resident law enforcer, Page made such an impact in those two episodes, she is still recognized by fans of the show years later.
In 2002, she starred in the short film The Wet Season opposite veteran Canadian character actor Maury Chaykin. She added weight to her resume with Wiebke von Carolsfeld’s acclaimed drama Marion Bridge (2002), written by Daniel MacIvor and co-starring Molly Parker, Rebecca Jenkins and Stacy Smith as three estranged sisters reuniting at their dying mother’s bedside. Page won an ACTRA Maritimes Award for Outstanding Female Performance for her role as Joanie, a local girl who turns out to be the key to a family secret.
Awards and accolades for the young actress’ work continued with the 2004 Gemini Award for Best Performance in a Childrens’ or Youth Program or Series for her role in a television feature film entitled Mrs. Ashboro’s Cat (2003), and American casting agents as well as Canadian were beginning to take notice.
She had a small role in a Nova Scotia-set comedy called Touch & Go (2003) before being cast in two American-produced television movies, Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story (2003), starring Thora Birch and Kelly Lynch, and Going for Broke (2003), starring Delta Burke who loses everything after becoming a compulsive gambler. Page also appeared on the big screen in the Canadian romantic comedy, Love That Boy (2003) directed by Andrea Dorfman.
She got her first real taste of grittier fare when she was cast in the lead of 2004’s Mouth to Mouth when she was 17 years old. Based loosely on first-time feature director Alison Murray’s own experiences, Page plays Sherry, a runaway drifting through Europe who falls in with a cult-like group of similarly alienated young people. In typical contrast, she would then follow up that by starring in the lighthearted children’s movie, I Downloaded a Ghost (2004).
Page was a regular for a season of the sci-fi dramatic Canadian series ReGenesis, playing the role of daughter to Peter Outerbridge. She won a Gemini Award in 2004 for her performance. That year also brought Wilby Wonderful, wonderfully written, directed and starred in by Marion Bridge screenwriter Daniel MacIvor, which was another successful film for Page, who was increasingly placing herself among the Canadian acting elite. The film takes place during a single day in the life of a group of islanders in the town of Wilby, Nova Scotia, and stars Maury Chaykin, Rebecca Jenkins, Paul Gross, Callum Keith Rennie and Sandra Oh. Page`s performance in Wilby Wonderful was nominated for a Genie Award in 2005.
Into the first half of the new decade, Page appeared in two very different, but equally significant films, playing two very different but some might argue, equally heroic females. The first was 2005’s Hard Candy, a modern film noir that had audiences and critics talking for both its controversial subject matter and her performance as the teenager Hayley. The film tells the story of Jeff, a 32-year-old photographer with pedophiliac tendencies who first flirts with Hayley in an online chat room. When they meet in person, just who is stalking who becomes shockingly and suddenly clear. Page’s performance as the precocious Hayley was heralded by critics as “extraordinary,” “awe-inspiring,” “commanding” and “empathic”.
That same year, Page graduated from the Shambhala School (a Buddhist high school) back home in Halifax, and was basically “being a ridiculous teenager” when she got the call from director Brett Ratner asking her if she’d be interested in being in his next film. Specifically that meant donning a leather catsuit and joining the cast of mutants in X-Men: The Last Stand, the third film of the hugely popular franchise. Page jumped at the chance, and in late spring 2006, appeared on the big screen as Katherine “Kitty” Pryde/Shadowcat, a young girl with the ability to pass through solid objects.
She went on to appear in the real-life drama, An American Crime in which she plays Sylvia Likens, a teenage girl imprisoned and tortured to death in 1965 by a group of teenagers led by a suburban housewife, played by Catherine Keener. She also completed The Tracey Fragments, which tells the story of a traumatized young girl (played by Page) in a series of vignettes from her memory. Described as “Degrassi meets Hendrix,” The Tracey Fragments is directed by Bruce McDonald, who says he had Page in mind for the part since 2000.
In January of 2007, Page began work on the feature, Juno. Shot in Vancouver and directed by Jason Reitman (son of Ivan Reitman), few knew going into the project that it would cause most of the world to sit up and take notice of this young actor from Halifax. Starring opposite another Northernstar, Michael Cera, Juno began to create Oscar® buzz the day it was released. When the 2008 nominations were announced, Ellen Page joined a very short list of Canadian actors who have been recognized for their work by Hollywood. At the time of the her nomination for Best Actress, Page was just 20 years old. Juno also picked up nominations for Best Picture, Best Direction and Best Original Screenplay.
The next few years saw her career explode. She was stunning in 2010’s Inception and got to work with renowned director Woody Allen in his 2012 film, To Rome With Love. There was another X-Men film in 2014 and her voice is heard in the Canadian animated film Window Horses along with the voices of Sandra Oh, Don McKellar, Kristen Thomson and many others.
While spending time in her home town a few years ago, Page visited one of her favorite bookstores where a clerk recommended Jean Hegland’s book Into the Forest. Page instantly felt the story would make for an incredible film. “The book was so beautifully written, compelling, suspenseful and deeply, deeply emotional that I thought it would be something that I’d really like to see on film,” said Page. With that in mind, she went to work with executive producer Kelly Bush Novak on securing the rights to the novel and presenting their vision for the feature film adaptation to Hegland. Into The Forest had its World Premiere at the 40th anniversary edition of the Toronto International Film Festival in September of 2015.
One year earlier, Page publicly came out as gay. She gave a moving and deeply personal speech at Time to Thrive, a conference to promote the welfare of LGBT youth. The speech reached millions around the world as she eloquently shared she was there because she hoped to “make a difference, and help others have an easier, more hopeful time” and felt a “personal obligation and social responsibility.” Since then, Page has gone on to receive the support and admiration from peers and fans alike, for her courage and honesty.
Also see: Filmography for Ellen Page.
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