Exclusive Interview: Ellen Page on Beyond: Two Souls
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 Jodie’s abilities when she was a child, and the game jumps back and forth between Jodie’s 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 don’t think I’m good enough at Beyond: Two Souls to really spoil anything.
Crave Online: I keep pushing up and you won’t go up? Why won’t you go up?
Ellen Page: [Laughs] What do you mean?
I’m 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 didn’t 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 I’m 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.
That’s why I assumed they were able to let you play her, because it looks so much like you.
No, I’m short but I’m not that short.
That would’ve 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, that’s interesting. I think it’s just that you’re playing someone over the course of eight years of their life so I guess the journey is much more intense in that way. You can’t 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 Jodie’s 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 you’d told me three years ago, “A, you’re going to do a video game and B, it’s going to be such an incredible experience for you as an actor,” I would have been like, “You’re crazy. What?” So it was such a great experience in that way. It just totally exceeded any expectation I could’ve possibly had.
Is it because Beyond: Two Souls is a spiritual story as well as the action and suspense?
Maybe. It’s funny because I don’t 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 Jodie’s going through in a basic internal way is something that so many people feel, such a universal struggle. To me, that’s 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 you’ve witnessed, as I can kind of gauge what you’ve gone through, you’ve seen some really intense moments happen and some moments where she’s 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. It’s not like in a film where you’re waiting for the camera to turn around, you’re 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 it’s 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 wasn’t 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 they’re 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. It’s a lot of other people, other girls doing an incredible amount of work that I didn’t 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. I’m supposed to do a movie with Fox called Queen & Country that will have a lot more of that kind of stuff so I’m looking forward to that.
Well, you’ve 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. I’ll move to L.A. and I’ll 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 won’t let you because of insurance.
Were you involved with how Jodie walks? Seems like she’s 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 that’s what matters the most. I feel like that’s a good sign.
Is it set up that it could be a franchise for you if it does well?
I don’t know. Oh, I don’t know. [Laughs]