Ellen Page at the premiere of Super at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2010.
Education and Early Career
The daughter of graphic designer Dennis Page and teacher Martha Philpotts, who divorced when she was a child, Ellen Philpotts-Page studied acting at Halifax’s Neptune Theatre School. At age 10 she was cast in her first film, Pit Pony (1997). The TV movie about growing up in a Cape Breton mining town morphed into a CBC series (1999–2001), which earned her a Gemini Award nomination in 2000.
A busy professional during her tweens and teens, Page acted steadily in Canadian projects. Now known professionally as Ellen Page, she played the daughter of the alcoholic, excrement-obsessed Mr. Lahey on Trailer Park Boys in 2001 and 2002 before acting in a trio of acclaimed Maritime films: Wiebke von Carolsfeld’s Marion Bridge (2002), which earned her an ACTRA award; Andrea Dorfman’s Love That Boy (2003); and Daniel MacIvor’s seriocomic Wilby Wonderful (2004), for which she received an award from the Atlantic Film Festival. She won her first Gemini Award in 2004 for her performance in the TV movie Mrs. Ashboro’s Cat (2004).
Page then relocated to Toronto and enrolled in Vaughan Road Academy’s Interact program, where her classmates included actor and singer Drake. She received another Gemini Award in 2005 for her supporting role in the first season of the popular sci-fi series ReGenesis. After returning to Halifax, she graduated from the Shambhala School, a progressive school based on Buddhist principles of mindfulness and awareness.
Page could have settled into the relative safety of a television career with forays into moviemaking. But lead roles in Alison Murray’s Mouth to Mouth (2005) and David Slade’s Hard Candy (2005) raised the stakes. In the international co-production Mouth to Mouth, Page played a wandering Goth kid who falls in with anarchist cultists in Europe. In the confrontational American indie Hard Candy, she offered a smart, scary performance as a 14-year-old who uses the Internet to lure a suspected pedophile into a trap. The controversial film earned mixed reviews, but Page received universal acclaim for her performance, leading director Brett Ratner to cast her as Kitty Pryde in the blockbuster action movie X-Men: The Last Stand (2006).
With her international star on the rise, Page still made time for Canadian projects, including veteran director Bruce McDonald’s elliptical and semi-experimental The Tracey Fragments (2007) and Kari Skogland’s graceful The Stone Angel (2007), based on the novel by Margaret Laurence.
Page then co-starred opposite Michael Cera in Juno (2007) a record-breaking, critically acclaimed, multiple award-winning independent hit that took her career to a new level. Directed by Montreal-born Jason Reitman from Diablo Cody’s Oscar-winning screenplay, Juno showcased Page as a lovable, quick-witted oddball teen who decides to find the right parents for her unborn baby. Budgeted at US$7 million, the film turned a huge profit, earning US$143 million in North America and garnering a number of honours for Page, including an Independent Spirit Award for best lead actress and nominations from the Academy Awards, BAFTA Awards and Golden Globes.
In the idiosyncratic comedy, filmed in British Columbia, Page created a screen persona that countered the cultural obsession with glamour. With her diminutive body, hoodie-and-sneaker outfits and scrubbed prettiness, Page appeared far removed from dysfunctional celebrity stars of the Twitter generation (American political pundit Bill Maher described her in 2011 as “the anti-Kardashian”). Page created a character who, while childlike, possessed mature verbal skills and projected an aura of confident intelligence. She displayed a gift for seeming unique yet representatively teenaged at the same time.
Acting Career Highlights
Page’s Oscar-nominated role in Juno elevated her to A-list status, resulting in such career milestones as an appearance on the cover of Vanity Fair’s 2008 Hollywood issue and inclusion in Entertainment Weekly’s “15 to Watch: Hollywood’s Next A-List.” Yet she continued to balance roles in offbeat and independent productions with the occasional blockbuster. She played the daughter of Dennis Quaid’s dissolute college professor in Smart People (2008), whirled around as a beauty queen turned roller-derby contender in Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, Whip It (2009), and played a tackily-costumed female sidekick to Rainn Wilson’s caustic wannabe-superhero in the violently eccentric comic book parody Super (2010). She also co-starred in one of 2010’s biggest box-office hits, Christopher Nolan’s Inception, playing a genius architect who designs dream structures.
She played a narcissistic seductress in Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love (2012), an unleashed anti-corporate activist in The East (2013), the psychic protagonist in the popular PlayStation 3 video game Beyond Two Souls (2013) and Kitty Pryde in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). She also worked as a spokesperson for Cisco Systems in whimsical commercials shot in Nova Scotia.
Other projects included Page’s first two movies as producer: Patricia Rozema’s post-apocalyptic Into the Forest (2015), co-starring Evan Rachel Wood and Callum Keith Rennie; and a story especially dear to her heart, Freeheld (2015), in which she co-stars with Julianne Moore. Based on true events, Freeheld tells the story of a New Jersey police detective (Moore) who is dying of a terminal disease and must fight for the right of her life partner (Page) to receive her pension benefits. In 2016, Page also produced and co-hosted the Vice series Gaycation (2016–17), which explores “what it means to be lesbian, gay, bi or trans all around the world.” It received Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program in 2016 and 2017.
Page then played a series of complex, flawed characters in challenging, critically acclaimed dramas. She and her Juno co-star Allison Janney offered a different take on accidental pregnancy in Tallulah (2016), in which Page’s character steals a baby and passes it off as her own to get support from her ex-boyfriend’s mother. In My Days of Mercy (2017), she plays a woman whose father (Elias Koteas) is on death row, yet who falls in love with an advocate for capital punishment. She also starred in The Cured (2018), a sci-fi drama about society’s attempts to reintegrate former zombies who have been cured of their affliction, Ann Marie Fleming’s award-winning animated film Window Horses (2017), and the Netflix superhero series The Umbrella Academy (2019–).
On Valentine’s Day 2014, Page announced that she was gay at a Human Rights Campaign conference on LGBTQ youth in Las Vegas. Though she began identifying as gay around 14 or 15 and came out to her family at 20, she had struggled for years with the effects that coming out might have on her public image and career. (While hosting an episode of Saturday Night Live in 2008, she responded to rumours about her sexual orientation by playing a straight woman who becomes overly enthusiastic at a Melissa Etheridge concert.)
At the 2014 conference, Page told the attendees that, “I am here today because I am gay… Maybe I can make a difference, to help others have an easier and more hopeful time. … I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered and my relationships suffered.”
Page’s speech was viewed more than five million times on YouTube. Following that declaration, she talked about the experience of coming out on such programs as The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Good Morning America. She has also spoken openly about her years-long battle with depression and panic attacks. After coming out, Page was named one of the Advocate’s “40 Under 40” and Out magazine’s Entertainer of the Year.
A star who has handled her fame with a disarmingly casual poise, Page has used her celebrity to speak out frequently about numerous social and political issues, from her advocacy of Plan B contraception for women to gender stereotyping. A committed environmentalist, she studied permaculture design at an eco-village near Eugene, Oregon, narrated the documentary Vanishing of the Bees (2009) and supports a number of organizations dedicated to sustainability. She participated in a series of online ads in 2008 to bring attention to human rights abuses in Burma and has also supported the Lunchbox Fund, which provides food to disadvantaged children.
- Outstanding Performance – Female (Marion Bridge), ACTRA Maritimes Award (2003)
- Best Performance in a Children’s or Youth Program (Mrs Ashboro’s Cat), Gemini Awards (2004)
- Atlantic Canadian Award – Outstanding Performance by an Actor, Female (Wilby Wonderful), Atlantic Film Festival (2004)
- Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Supporting Role in a Dramatic Series (ReGenesis), Gemini Awards (2005)
- Best Actress (Hard Candy), Austin Film Critics Association (2005)
- Relationship from Hell (Hard Candy, shared with Patrick Wilson), Fangoria Chainsaw Awards (2006)
- Best Actress (Juno), Austin Film Critics Association (2007)
- Best Actress (Juno), Chicago Film Critics Association Awards (2007)
- Best Performance by a Female – Film (Juno), Canadian Comedy Awards (2008)
- Canadian Award, Best Actress (The Tracey Fragments), Atlantic Film Festival (2007)
- Best Breakthrough Performance (Juno), EDA Female Focus Award (2007)
- Breakthrough Actress of the Year, Hollywood Film Awards (2007)
- Best Performance, Female (Juno, tied with Julie Christie), Toronto Film Critics Association Awards (2007)
- Best Female Lead (Juno), Independent Spirit Awards (2008)
- Best Scared-As-Shit Performance (Inception), MTV Movie Award (2010)
- Best Kiss (Inception, shared with Joseph Gordon-Levitt), MTV Movie Award (2010)