When I saw Hard Candy, I was blown away by Ellen Page's carefully controlled performance as a young girl who embarks on a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with a man who trolls the internet for 14-year-old girls. I knew when I saw her in that film that she had a good career ahead of her, if she'd make some good choices around future scripts. Looks like she's done just that (I'm generously overlooking her role as Kitty Pryde in X-Men -- she was underused there), because she has no fewer than six films lined up.
Page is making some really smart decisions with her scripts -- she's mixing it up enough not to get herself boxed into one type of role, she's got a Sundance film, a mainstream film, and some decidedly edgier fare all upcoming. Page is one of the actresses I'll be watching with the most interest in 2007; here's what she has upcoming, so you can get her on your radar (if she's not there already):
First up for Page is An American Crime (pictured above), which debuts at Sundance. Film is based on a true story from 1965 Indiana about a housewife who kept a teenage girl, Sylvia Likens, locked in her basement. Page was reportedly the only choice to play Likens, and she co-stars with Catherine Keener, who plays Gertrude Baniszewski, the 37-year-old woman who led a pack of teenagers and children as young as 11 and 12 (some her own kids, and others just kids in the neighborhood) in the escalating beating, torture and eventual death of the 16-year-old, in one of the worst torture-murder cases in American history. In an interesting bit of casting, typically "nice boy" Jeremy Sumpter, who was fantastic in the title role in 2003's Peter Pan, takes on the role of Coy Hubbard, the 16-year-old boyfriend of Stephanie Baniszewski, who was one of the worst of Syliva's abusers, repeatedly practicing Judo on her by throwing her into walls.
When Likens' emaciated body was found by police after an anonymous phone call by one of the teenagers who had abused her led them to the house where she'd been held, they found that she had been repeatedly burned with cigarettes and matches, and branded on her stomach with the words "I am a prostitute and proud of it". Sylvia and her younger sister had been left in the care of Baniszewski by their father so he could travel the carnival circuit; he later admitted in court records that he had only known Baniszewski, who he knew as "Mrs. Wright," for a few hours, and didn't bother to inspect her home, where she lived with her own seven children. Not one of your uplifting stories, but I'm interested to see how filmmaker Tommy O'Haver (Ella Enchanted), who co-wrote the script, handles the harrowing tale. I'll be reviewing this one at Sundance (and we hope to interview Page as well) so stay tuned.
Next up for Page is The Tracey Fragments, a little indie directed by Bruce McDonald and filmed in 14 days. Film is based on the depressing debut novel by Canadian author Maureen Medved (who also wrote the screenplay), about a mentally-disturbed teenager, riding a bus through a blizzard, naked except for a shower curtain, on a search for her missing younger brother (who thinks he's a dog). If that sounds like your kind of weird and depressing, this might be right up your alley. I know I'll be there.
Currently listed as being in post-prod is The Stone Angel, based on a novel by Margaret Laurence about a fiercely proud and independent woman, Hagar Shipley (played by Ellen Burnstyn), who reflects on her life as she hides out to avoid being put in a nursing home. Not a lot of info on Page's part in this film, but her character is "Arlene," so if you've read the book on which the film is based, throw us a bone, will you?
Hot on the heels of that is Smart People, originally set to star Rachel Weisz (The Fountain), but she left the project and was replaced with Sarah Jessica Parker. Hrm. Of the two, I generally prefer Weisz, but whatever. Parker plays a doctor who falls for a grumpy professor who has wallowed in anger since the death of his wife. Dennis Quaid plays the widower, who you just know is going to liplock with Parker sometime during the film. Page plays Quaid's daughter in the film, and Thomas Haden Church (his presence, along with Page's, is a good sign) plays Quaid's long-lost adopted brother.
Page follows up that turn with an edgier role as a teenage lesbian in Jack and Diane (Dammit! Now that song is going to be stuck in my head all night!). But wait! That's not all! It's apparently a lesbian teenage ... werewolf movie! Page plays Diane who, after a night of passionately making out with tough-skinned fellow teen lesbian Jack (Olivia Thirlby, who also stars in Snow Angels, another Sundance film), finds that her newly awakened sexual desire turns her into a werewolf. Can I get a "hell, yeah!" people? The comments about the film on IMDb are truly hilarious, with some people upset that Page is playing a lesbian, others bemused that people are more upset that she's a lesbian than a werewolf, and still others simply liking the idea of seeing Page in lesbian love scenes. Page also plays the role of Diane's twin sister, Karen, and, according to the director's website, the film will include animation scenes by the Brothers Quay that take place inside Diane's body. Wow. They had me at "teenage lesbian werewolf flick," but that seals the deal. I am so there.
Last but not least, Page will star in Thank You For Smoking director Jason Reitman's next film,Juno , a dark comedy about a pregnant teenager (that would be Page). Page's character, Juno, gets preggers after one sexual encounter with her best friend, and then decides to adopt her baby out to a less-than-perfect couple -- but develops a crush on the ambivalent future adoptive father. Reitman is a comedic director with great instincts, and this is one of the films I am most anticipating in 2007.