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CraveOnline Exclusive Interview: Ellen Page on Beyond: Two Souls
Ellen Page calls Beyond: Two Souls one of the most fulfilling experiences Ive had as an actor, promises the Queen & Country movie is faithful to the comics. by Fred Topel, published on October 8, 2013
We should get used to the new world. Movie stars like Ellen Page are doing promotional interviews for video games in which they are starring. Beyond: Two Souls stars Page as Jodie, a CIA operative attached to an entity named Aiden, and the player alternates control between the two. Willem Dafoe costars as the agent who discovered Jodies abilities when she was a child, and the game jumps back and forth between Jodies adult training and missions and her childhood experiences. We spoke with Page by phone the day Beyond: Two Souls released for PS3 exclusively. I got 10 missions into the game over the course of about three hours, so mild spoilers are discussed, but really I dont think Im good enough at Beyond: Two Souls to really spoil anything.
Crave Online: I keep pushing up and you wont go up? Why wont you go up?
Ellen Page: [Laughs] What do you mean?
Im just kidding. The controls work fine. I just never got to yell at Mario for not jumping when I pushed jump.
Did you get to play Jodie as a little girl?
I didnt play really little girl Jodie. That was a young actress, a little girl who does look a lot like me when I was little. Not her, the character in the game which is very trippy, mostly for my mother. I played her from about 14 onward, so playing 14 was interesting because Im not 14. That was over a decade ago and that was a great, fun exercise as an actor because you have to remember the emotional state, the attitude, the way of talking, the physicality so that was fun.
So for the younger actress, did they overlay a form of your face on her for the game?
Yeah, she was not the mini-doppelganger.
Thats why I assumed they were able to let you play her, because it looks so much like you.
No, Im short but Im not that short.
That wouldve been the technological magic. Were you able find more dimension in Jodie in this extended story than in a movie which could be finite and in two hours or less?
Oh, thats interesting. I think its just that youre playing someone over the course of eight years of their life so I guess the journey is much more intense in that way. You cant not but feel such an incredible connection to this person as they grow and go through incredibly intense, emotionally grueling experiences, which is sort of what Jodies story is. I sort of experienced the incredible amount of sadness she has.
I was so excited to do this and so excited to do something totally different and new and play such a really cool protagonist in this game. I did not necessarily expect it to be one of the most fulfilling experiences I had as an actor, and it was. If youd told me three years ago, A, youre going to do a video game and B, its going to be such an incredible experience for you as an actor, I would have been like, Youre crazy. What? So it was such a great experience in that way. It just totally exceeded any expectation I couldve possibly had.
Is it because Beyond: Two Souls is a spiritual story as well as the action and suspense?
Maybe. Its funny because I dont even think of it that way. I get that it has this very high concept paranormal aspect to it, but that being said, it feels so emotionally grounded to me. I feel like what it is that Jodies going through in a basic internal way is something that so many people feel, such a universal struggle. To me, thats what makes me connect with it and to me what makes a lot of high concept stories work for people, that they are grounded emotionally. You hope that when people play the game, you hope that that enters them and that they feel that and that it makes it a cool experience for them.
Her voice sounds so distressed, was it stressful to be in that space?
Yes, it was stressful to be in a lot of spaces in this game. As youve witnessed, as I can kind of gauge what youve gone through, youve seen some really intense moments happen and some moments where shes gotten to places that are really dark. It was a lot of that every day, and yeah, it was a very emotionally intense experience making this, for sure, because it was very relentless every single day. Its not like in a film where youre waiting for the camera to turn around, youre waiting for lighting, you have a moment to get into the zone. You just go absolutely nonstop from the beginning until the day ends, which is awesome. You want to be challenged and I would rather that than be sitting around and waiting on a set, so its great but it was definitely a lot. I definitely needed to sleep for a week when it was done.
Were you surprised or impressed that there was some emotional gameplay too? In one of the scenes, you make her hug the teddy bear.
I think I wasnt because I know what David [Cage]s intention is with what he wants to do with video games. He wants to tell stories that are more emotionally involved and complex and that hopefully move people. So of course you have a lot of elements of the, hopefully allowing the gamer to connect with who theyre playing in a way that is different than other games.
Did you get to learn the actual badass tactics, the fighting?
I wish more. I did a little physical stuff but no. Its a lot of other people, other girls doing an incredible amount of work that I didnt do. All the major physical stuff in the fights, the big fight on the train, I do some basic stuff like throwing punches, but a lot of that major action is other people who put a tremendous amount of work into this. I did the acting part. I wish. Im supposed to do a movie with Fox called Queen & Country that will have a lot more of that kind of stuff so Im looking forward to that.
Well, youve gotten to do a fair amount of action so far in X-Men and Inception.
For sure, I love it actually. And Whip It even. That was a movie where it was like, Please let me do everything. Ill move to L.A. and Ill train for months so I can do it. Because I was quite an athlete when I was younger, I think I have that in me. I love roles that are super physical and always want to be able to do everything, but sometimes they just wont let you because of insurance.
Were you involved with how Jodie walks? Seems like shes in no rush. Sometimes she even trudges along.
Yeah, I think I have a very specific walk. We probably spent a whole half day I would say doing walks for every part of the game, run, slow walk, waiting around, nervous walk, all of those things. That was all me. Sorry, I know. Sometimes I need to walk faster, but sorry.
I thought it was kind of cool. How faithful is Queen & Country to the graphic novels?
The awesome graphic novels. Pretty darn faithful actually. The writers are pleased with the script so thats what matters the most. I feel like thats a good sign.
Is it set up that it could be a franchise for you if it does well?
I dont know. Oh, I dont know. [Laughs]
CraveOnline: You joined X-Men as one of the new students in The Last Stand. Do you have a bigger role in Days of Future Past?
Ellen Page: I feel like Kitty has some stuff to do in the movie, yeah, but the problem with this is you just dont know what youre allowed to say. All I can say is I had such a great time being back, couldnt be a more insanely talented but also just lovely group of people to work with every day. Going to work and watching Hugh [Jackman] play Wolverine in front of you and watching Patrick [Stewart] and Ian [McKellan] between takes goof around makes me so happy to no end. Its so much fun.
Queen & Country could be good progress but surprisingly it can still be tough to get movies with female heroines made. Gaming can be a male audience but is the gaming world more open to female heroines than movies sometimes? Theres Lara Croft, the Resident Evils and more.
I dont know. I feel like Im not enough of a gamer to know but I think with these things, if people would just be willing to maybe take more risks, I think they would be surprised. I think that audiences respond to a compelling story, whether its a male or female. I just saw Gravity and Sandra Bullocks incredible in that movie. I think because it is her specifically, it makes the movie more compelling and more interesting. That movie opened incredibly well and its also because its just a beautiful movie that is just so insane visually.
I think it comes down to the work and to the material and the film thats being made. The more that we have female directors and women writing screenplays, Im sure the more well see hopefully better roles for women in film because yes, right now theres a horrible gender inequality in film, and just generally towards any minority quite frankly. So yes, one hopes that as the times evolve that films and video games also will reflect that.
Its heartening that video games can embrace that equally, or maybe more than films do.
Yeah, exactly, and with this game, lets get real. I think we can both agree, as many others would, that I dont look like Lara Croft. And Jodie is not dressed like Lara Croft either, so Im super stoked that this character is going into the world because she is a real, strong, also vulnerable, sad, very, very complex and ultimately I think a very real character. And she also happens to be a girl.
She does go on glamorous missions in foreign embassies though.
And she still wears a red gown from time to time, so yeah, shes still very much a woman. Shes not just some sort of crazy badass in camouflage for the whole game. Shes complex, shes all the things that make a woman a woman I suppose.
Did they have wardrobe or was that added in the game?
No, no wardrobe. Thats all added.
Maybe because of the writing and the technology has evolved to show this, but shes a much more dramatic character than maybe Lara Croft was in the beginning.
Sure, I mean theyre just different games too. To be honest, the new Tomb Raider, I had a blast playing. Loved it! I thought that was a great game, but its different. This game is not as traditional as other video games. Yeah, theres a lot of awesome, exciting, cool gameplay for sure, but theres also a narrative. The narrative is very cinematic in its scope and it is emotionally complex. Its just different.
Were there any points where it was very technical work, where you had to do a performance that teaches the player how to play the game?
No, not really. Sometimes theres dialogue that you might not say by yourself as a regular person, like, I dont know, Cook the chicken. You dont really say that. Sometimes dialogue driven things that of course are about guiding the player, but I dont really recall doing anything physical in regards to telling the player how to play the game. Yes, of course, some of the dialogue and some of the voiceover is helping guide the player.
Its actually far less obtrusive in Beyond: Two Souls than in some others.
Yeah, of course and I think the device that helps is Aiden. Communicating with Aiden is sometimes communicating with the player because of course you play as Aiden sometimes.
Did you work with Willem Dafoe and the other actors in those scenes?
Yeah, sometimes I was by myself but a lot of the times I worked with actors. Any scene Willem and I have together we did together so that was a tremendous experience because hes just a phenomenal actor who Ive always loved and also just an awesome person. Getting to do this with him was so great.
Did Beyond: Two Souls take longer than a movie?
No. Its so different that its hard to [say]. No, it took me four weeks but I was doing 30-40 pages of work every day which is totally different from a movie. I mean, thats just impossible in a movie. Its insane. On a movie you do three pages of work a day.
Were you seeking out a new medium? You said you were surprised how fulfilling the video game experience was, but were you looking for something like this and open to something new?
No, no, it came totally out of nowhere but I think Im a person who always wants to do things that are new and different, whether its different kinds of films, whether its different kinds of filmmakers. Im interested in working with different people because of how they work. Going from shooting something that has a massive budget and then wanting to follow up that with something with a tiny budget just for the sake of experiencing the different worlds. Then to get to go do something that was so wildly different and new and literally like nothing Id done before was such an exciting opportunity.
Besides Tomb Raider, what were some of your favorite games, even going back to when you were a kid in the Nintendo era?
Oh, huge Sonic the Hedgehog fan, NHL 94. Thats dating me a bit. Then Playstation, I loved Crash Bandicoot, I loved FIFA, Medal of Honor, that kind of thing.