Juno - interview with Ellen Page
Young Canadian actress Ellen Page talks to Miles Fielder about her Oscar-nominated performance in the controversial teenage pregnancy comedy Juno
The elfin Canadian Ellen Page has been nominated for a Best Leading Actress Oscar for her titular role in the independent comedy drama, Juno. If she wins that prestigious prize at the Academy Awards on Monday 25 February, four days after her 21st birthday, she’ll make history as the youngest ever woman to win in that category, beating the current record holder, Marlee Matlin, by five months.
‘It wasn’t something I’d ever expected, so I was delightfully surprised,’ says Page, who received the news in transit between press junkets in Paris and London. ‘It’s ridiculously humbling to be nominated with such incredible women [Cate Blanchett, Julie Christie, Marion Cotillard and Laura Linney]. And it’s so great the movie has been nominated for so many awards [also Best Film, Directing and Original Screenplay]. When you shoot an independent film, it’s like, “I hope we make the Toronto Film Festival”. And here we are. It’s insane.’
It’s perhaps surprising that Juno has done so well with the traditionally conservative Academy voters. Aside from having the generic terms ‘independent’ and ‘comedy’ going against it, the film’s a quirky, anarchic affair thanks to its spikey script by former stripper and phone sex operator Diablo Cody and punchy direction by Jason Reitman, who previously made the satire Thank You For Smoking.
Its story, about a teenage girl who experiments with sex with her best friend, becomes pregnant, considers having an abortion, and then opts to have the baby adopted, certainly isn’t the kind that usually gets recognition at the Oscars. Controversy is rarely a by-word at the world’s most famous film awards, but Juno has garnered its fair share for containing, in the view of some commentators, an anti-abortion message.
‘Juno just happens to be about a girl who has a baby and gives it to an adoptive couple,’ counters Page. ‘People who have said the movie is negative towards abortion are just trying to create a story out of nothing. If you knew me, the writer and the director, you would absolutely never say that. The movie allows all the choices to be visited, and it looks at it from the female perspective. If I were 16 and pregnant I don’t know what I would do. But I would hope all those choices were freely available to me.’
As a matter of fact, Page is not at all unlike the smart oddball she plays in the film. She’s referred to herself as a ‘tomboy’ and a ‘shrimp’, and, having committed herself to acting at a young age she’s certainly as wilful as her current screen alter ego.
And then there’s what she has to say about the new home she’s just bought in her hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia: ‘It’s a former brothel and it’s haunted. Make-up has vanished. And a tupperware tub of jewellery. And the microwave turns on a lot. I think the ghosts are women who used to work in the brothel. And the microwave obviously wasn’t invented when they were around, so they probably think it’s magic. I believe in everything and nothing. I think I have a weird sense of humour.’
That’s just what Juno might have said.
Juno is on general release from Fri 8 Feb.