Once it would have been career suicide, but Hollywood star Ellen Page is convinced that “the best decision I ever took” was to come out.
The elfin actress, who made her name as a pregnant high school teen in the off-beat Canadian comedy “Juno”, has not looked back since she went public two years ago and only to be later named the world’s “sexiest celebrity vegetarian” alongside Jared Leto.
In September she took another step into the light by walking the red carpet with her partner, artist and surfer Samantha Thomas, for the premiere of “Freeheld”, which tells the true story of a lesbian couple in New Jersey fighting for equal pension rights as one of them dies of cancer.
But the 28-year-old star of blockbusting action films like “X-Men” and “Inception” told AFP that plucking up the courage wasn’t easy. “I was very closeted. And obviously something about Hollywood and the film industry made me feel like I couldn’t be out,” she said in an interview while visiting Paris.
“Now that I am out, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I think it sucks that anyone has to live that way. I wish no one had to.”
The Canadian actress, who is also vegan, has since become a vocal advocate of equality for the LGBT community.
“Obviously there’s been progress, because we now have marriage equality in America. But there’s still so much to do. You can still be fired and denied housing in 35 US states if you’re an LGBT person, and trans women of colour have a life expectancy of 35, which is appalling. We’re far from true equality.”
– Lesbian space hero –
Although she does not see herself as a spokeswoman for the gay community, she said she can help “put the focus” on issues that have slipped under the radar.
“We really need to support trans women of colour because they are facing an epidemic of violence that’s really horrific. And up to 40 percent of LGBT youth are homeless. So clearly we have still a society that is homophobic and transphobic and biphobic, and it’s affecting those who are the most vulnerable. We need to help them and keep moving our society forward,” she added.
But Page is also keen to tell the overlooked stories of gay heroes and role models, like the astronaut and physicist Sally Ride, the youngest person — and first American woman — to go into space.
The scientist, who had married and divorced, lived discreetly for 27 years with her partner until her death in 2012.
“Hopefully we will be working on a HBO mini-series about her,” she said.
The fact that the studios and cable chains like HBO are looking to tell such stories shows the progress that has been made, she insisted.
“Look, people are making these movies, and
that’s exciting. These movies are managing to branch into the mainstream.”
– ‘Gaycation’ –
Page has spent much of the past year working on a show called “Gaycation” for the website Vice’s new TV channel.
“We go to different countries and explore what it means to be LGBT in that country. We’ve done Japan, Brazil, Jamaica and America. I’ve tried to make something that hopefully allows people to have a voice and talks about those who no one typically talks about.”
That said, Page said she does not want to get typecast in lesbian roles. “I am a lesbian and I am excited to be able to align my creative self with my identity, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to continue to play straight people.”
Her co-star in “Freeheld”, the Oscar-winner Julianne Moore, has “played more lesbians than I have”, she joked.
It is the roles that matter, she said. “But it’s nice to be able to go on out and play some gays. It’s fun.”
In her latest movie, the comedy “Tallulah”, one of the hits of the Sundance Film Festival last month, she plays a straight woman who rescues a baby from an irresponsible mother, lies about the baby being hers with the help of her ex-boyfriend’s mother, before returning the baby to its mother when she straightens herself out.
She said she revels in jumping from big budget Hollywood projects to interesting small independent films made on a shoestring.
“It’s a whole different world… shooting a film in 20 straight days and then doing one over four or five months. It’s so fun to have that diversity of experience. And obviously doing the big ones help you to make the little ones.”