Given the emotional roller coaster her characters go through, it’s easy to understand why writer-director Adriana Maggs is quick to dispel any thoughts that her debut feature, Grown Up Movie Star, is in any way autobiographical.
The film doesn’t paint a rosy picture of family life. In its opening scene the main character, Ruby, is abandoned by her mother, left to live with her father, Ray, a disgraced ex-NHL player distracted by a growing awareness of his homosexuality.
Thirteen and equally confused about her burgeoning sexuality, Ruby turns to other men in her life, including her father’s wheelchair-bound best friend, for attention.
“A lot of the scenes, conversations and characters are composites or amalgamations of real people,” Maggs concedes.
“I was really hard on myself to make sure I was reflecting the absolute truth of the situation, that I wasn’t just making it up.”
Born in Newfoundland, Maggs set the film in her home province, but never intended to shoot it in the middle of February.
“You’d be crazy to write a movie and say, ‘I want to shoot this in 50-below winds,’” she jokes. But fate forced her hand when funding became available in the winter and Maggs soon found herself filming in the frigid cold while pregnant.
Though not planned, it’s hard to imagine the movie without its snow-covered landscapes.
Similar to the Coen Brothers’ Fargo, the snow almost becomes a character in the film. Maggs credits her crew and producers for their hard work in such arduous conditions, including the film’s star Shawn Doyle, who also served as executive producer.
Doyle is an established actor in the states, probably best known for his work in Big Love.
A native Newfoundlander, he was looking for a project to do at home when he was approached about Grown Up Movie Star.
“He definitely wanted to know that he wasn’t going to be in a crappy film, so we had to convince him of that,” says Maggs. “But it was pretty good timing.”
The film was recently added to the lineup of the Sundance Film Festival, currently being held in Park City, Utah, and Maggs was in the middle of packing when Metro spoke to her on the phone.
Far from a vacation, she anticipated doing a lot of press in between five screenings and a brunch with Robert Redford.
“There’s a U.S. publicist who has my life totally scheduled,” she says. “I like it. I get overwhelmed when I have to organize things.”