Ellen Page on 'Whip It'

Ellen Page goes from beauty queen to roller derby icon in Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, 'Whip It'. David Jenkins spoke to her about the role

Born and raised in Canada, 23-year-old Ellen Page made her breakthrough as a child taking violent revenge on a paedophile in ‘Hard Candy’ before charming the world as a young mother-to-be in ‘Juno’. With ‘Whip It’ (the directorial debut of Drew Barrymore) she stars as a roller-derby star who keeps her secret life from her parents.

How did you originally get involved in ‘Whip It’?
‘I think Drew Barrymore had me in mind. One of the producers approached me about it when I was at Sundance a few years back. She told me that it was about underground roller derby and I found that extremely interesting. Then she mentioned that Drew was going to direct it, and I just got stupidly excited.’

How good was your skating before ‘Whip It’? Was it a case of taking the old Barbie skates on to the streets?
‘I’m not the kind of girl that ever owned Barbie skates, I have to admit.’

Not even ironically?
‘Oh yeah. I own a pair now because I’m such a fucking hipster. No, I wasn’t a very good skater, but growing up, all I did was play sports, so at least I had that athleticism in me and that lack of fear. I had never been on roller skates before but I had an amazing trainer called Axles of Evil and it took me three, four months to get pretty good.’

In the film you have an underwater love scene. How do you prepare for that?

‘It’s definitely… difficult. I really liked the idea and I trusted Drew. Physically it was a little tiring, but it was nice to do something different. Don’t get me wrong, there was no sub-aqua training or anything like that – it was a case of “jump in the pool and let’s get this thing done”. I love that kind of filmmaking.’

Do you watch a lot of films?
‘I go through phases. I recently saw an amazing documentary about an endurance swimmer from Slovakia called “Big River Man”. I don’t know why I responded to it so much, but I did.’

When you’re watching a good film, do you take mental notes with a view to maybe working with the director?
‘Oh yes, very much so. When I saw “Big River Man” I went straightaway and emailed the director just because I wanted to tell him why I liked it.’

Did you get a response?
‘Yes, I did. And I got kinda starstruck. There was a bit on the end of it, too, which said, “Is this the actress Ellen Page?” which was very cute.’

You’re in Christopher Nolan’s new film, ‘Inception’. Have you seen it yet?
‘No, and I don’t know if it’s wrong to be as excited as other people down to the fact that I’m in it, but I’m very eager to.’

As a director, how does Drew Barrymore compare to Chris Nolan?
‘Well, every film is a different experience and all directors work differently, just as all actors work differently. But, there was a lot more time and space on “Inception”. Working with Chris is such a pleasure because you’re shooting a movie on this grand scale. He’s a filmmaker because he loves films: there’s just no ego with him. He has some of that dry British wit, too, which I didn’t quite get at first, but learned to love.’

Would you like to write or direct?
‘I’m writing a TV show that HBO bought. As of now it’s called “Stitch N’ Bitch” and it stars Alia Shawkat and Sean Tillmann (aka Har Mar Superstar).’

Is it about knitting?
‘No, it has to do with hipsters in East LA, though knitting could fall into that category. The title actually refers to the band at the centre of it. We all went to Amsterdam to write the pilot which was magical superfun.’

Read our review of 'Whip It'.

Author: Interview: David Jenkins



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