Interview: Ellen Page talks about the eco-thriller ‘The East’
At 20, Ellen Page became a star playing Juno in the film of the same name. She was nominated for an Academy Award and would go on to make movies like “Whip It” and “Inception.” But first she took some time off. “I studied permaculture, design and eco village development at a place called Lost Valley in Oregon with a lot of people who had the same philosophy — strictly freegan,” she says.
Freeganism, or the practice of salvaging discarded food, was just one of the things that fascinated Page during her month-long stay at the settlement. The experience taught her to live more simply and to really think about her relationship with the planet. Her time there also prepared her for “The East,” a new eco-thriller co-starring Alexander Skarsgard and co-writer Brit Marling. “On top of it being an incredibly beautifully written piece of work, there were so many ideas that I was very excited about and thinking about,” she says.
In the film she plays Izzy, a member of a shadowy group of eco-activists called “The East” — think a more hands-on version of real-life group Anonymous — who live by an anarchist eco code. While Page’s time at the Oregon settlement didn’t involve targeting corporate leaders to make them pay for their crimes against the planet, it did serve as a solid foundation for her character.
“We were able to talk about the experience I had and relate what that does to you as a person when you’ve been raised with this narrative given to us by the system that exists,” she says. “Then you go experience something that completely flips everything on its head. That is a wild ride to go on. Then to walk back out into the world and society, you see things differently.”
It’s a way of life she thinks about daily. “Every morning when I wake up and open my eyes I am unwillingly oppressing a lot of people and the environment to live in the privilege that I have — that we all have living in this area of the world. Not that everyone in this area of the world experiences that. And that’s a hard thing,” she explains. “I think that is something a lot of people are dealing with right now and it is hard to know if running away to the woods and becoming a freegan is the best choice, or do we stay in the infrastructure we’ve inherited and do our best to create positive change? I don’t necessarily know the answer. Maybe I’m just being a selfish jerk.”