As both an artist and activist, Ellen Page always brings a sense of deeper meaning to her work … even to her zombie movies.
The 31-year-old Oscar nominee has a full plate of projects at all times, from her Viceland series Gaycation and upcoming Netflix show The Umbrella Academy to the work she's doing to help make Hollywood a safer and more inclusive space for everyone. In a way, that ethic is reflected in her new post-zombie drama The Cured, which focuses on what happens after a horrific zombie virus outbreak.
In Irish filmmaker David Freyne's new film, which is now available on VOD, Page plays Abbie, a widowed mother who takes in her brother-in-law, who had succumbed to the zombie virus and did unspeakable acts while under its influence. Society is torn over the prospect of reintegrating these former zombies — who had no control over their actions — back into everyday life, and Abbie is forced to confront her own losses and find a way to move forward.
Page spoke with SYFY WIRE about the film, as well as her role in pushing Hollywood forward.
What I really liked about this movie is it's not really so much about zombies as it's an allegory for so much more going on in our society right now. How'd you get involved?
Ellen Page: I'd say first and foremost I just was so moved and compelled and really just blown away by David's script, and the idea of a zombie movie that happens after the zombie movie we're used to seeing. And I think that's a testament to all the themes and ideas and issues that we're dealing with, and we have been dealing with for a long time. But yes, in contemporary culture right now.
One thing that I was thinking about a lot as I watched the film was the people who are cured: They could be seen as victims under some horrible virus spell, or criminals.
As an actor, how did you see them?
Well, I was approaching it, obviously, playing Abbie, who's a character who's just survived with her son in this horrific situation, lost her husband, and has been living outside of Dublin, and sort of just come back to figure out a way to create a life again and deal with the trauma she's been through, but really having to be mindful of the fact that she's a mother, and she's needing to create whatever her ideal normalcy and routine is for her son.
And then being one of the individuals who does bring her brother-in-law, played by Sam Keeley, who's being introduced back into society after being infected. But with her own hesitations, of course, but making the right choice. And so that's where I was coming from, obviously playing that specific character.
We've all just had some horrible things happen in America in terms of mental health, and criminal justice reform, and bigotry, and thinking the way everyone else saw these people. I've never really seen a zombie movie that dealt with the way people would act afterwards. Did it make you think differently about your own life at all?
I don't think it made me feel differently about my life, no.
I was trying to think, would I be able to what she did in the movie. That was my biggest moral dilemma.
People will have their own individual reactions and ideas watching this film. And I think why a lot of these films are so compelling for people is it does make us obviously question what our own actions would be, or what would our own moral and ethical compromises be if we were faced with a situation like this.
Obviously it was a very emotionally draining movie, but was there a scene that really took a lot out of you in particular?
Yes, there was one where I guess it would be a spoiler to say that it involves me smashing the table with my fists. That scene was between Sam and me near the end of the film. That was an intense experience. And I think that also has to do with working with an actor as powerful and amazing as Sam. I was really blown away by him and loved working with him. He was just so present and so generous. I can't wait to continue to watch his work. I just think he's so special.
You're a producer now, too. After what happened this fall, with the #MeToo movement and all the revelations, have you noticed any real change yet?
Goodness, all the voices coming together and creating this swell of sharing stories that have been silenced for so long in this industry, and other industries, and just sort of our society in general. And I'm certainly hoping that it leads to change; I mean, there's nothing I've tangibly seen specifically. But I'm hoping that this sort of very recent conversation, well, a conversation that's already always been had, but obviously to this degree will create tangible change.
You have so much going on. Are there any projects you have coming up that you're really excited about?
Well, I'm really excited right now working on The Umbrella Academy. We just finished the first episode and have a little break before going to shoot the next nine episodes. And it's just an awesome group of actors and a wonderful crew. And Mary J. Blige just signed on, which I'm so excited about. [Gerard Way] was there when we did the first read-through and on the first day of shooting. It was really cool, and he’s really a lovely guy.