by Robert Levin, published on June 20, 2012|
On-screen, Ellen Page has terrorized a possible pedophile in "Hard Candy," dealt with an unexpected pregnancy in "Juno" and grappled with Christopher Nolan's labyrinthine "Inception" dreamscape.
Given that history of challenging parts, you'd think that co-starring in Woody Allen's "To Rome with Love," a lighthearted comic ensemble piece that opens Friday, wouldn't have been a big deal for the 25-year-old actress. But you'd be wrong.
"The experience of being on a Woody Allen set and being directed by this cinematic icon and cultural icon ... was kind of shocking," Page says. "I was profoundly nervous and intimidated going into it."
But Allen tried to set his star at ease.
"I remember when I was feeling nervous about the role and I called him, I was asking him questions, and he was like, 'There's no need to overthink this. There's no getting analytical about it,'" Page says.
In fact, when it comes to directing his actors, the Woodman is famously hands-off. In some ways, Page says, that faith made things even more nerve-racking.
"When you work with Woody, you're working with incredible material, you're working with a script that has this natural rhythm that's so distinctly his voice yet has a natural fluidity to it," Page says. "But he also gives you such freedom, and maybe that's also more scary, because you're like ... 'Am I pulling this off?'"
In one of the three story lines in Allen's film, Page's Monica begins a fling with Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), neurotic boyfriend of her pal Sally (Greta Gerwig), while she's visiting them in Rome.
It's a classic Woody setup, tinged with jealousy and sexual awkwardness. It also offers Page the chance to join the long lineage of terrific actresses (Diane Keaton, Mia Farrow, etc.) who have been given top-notch parts in Allen's films.
"I have a lot of respect for him for that," she says. "Weirdly, now women are seen in a very specific way, and when anything is slightly different, or someone carries herself in a very different way, there's always so much dialogue about it ... Isn't this crazy? I think Woody's done a great, great service in that sense for women."