Ellen Page feels a new sense of confidence to take on controversial issues

Despite the contempt celebrity activists face, actress Ellen Page feels a new sense of confidence to take on controversial issues

Ellen Page stars in a remake of 1990 science-fiction movie Flatliners.
Ellen Page stars in a remake of 1990 science-fiction movie Flatliners.PHOTO: SONY PICTURES

Celebrities who take a stand on social and political causes are often told to shut up, stay in their lane and leave the issues to the experts.

But Oscar-nominated Canadian actress Ellen Page has no intention of keeping quiet, whether she is speaking up for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) rights and feminism, as she often does, or joining a protest against American President Donald Trump's Muslim travel ban, as she did in January this year.

Chatting to The Straits Times at a recent Hollywood press day for her new science-fiction movie Flatliners, the 30-year-old says she is well aware of the scorn heaped on celebrity activists.

Or, as she puts it, the old "You can't talk, you're a celebrity" gripe.

"Yeah, but I'm also a person and I do have opinions about life. But that's cool and I understand it," says the star, whose support for issues such as access to contraception and gun control has been dismissed by some social-media users because she is an actress.

But she has also been praised for her outspokenness, especially in the LGBTQ community, where she has been a prominent figure since coming out as gay in 2014 at a Las Vegas human rights event.

Since last year, the actress - who appeared in two X-Men films (2006 and 2014) - has also hosted and co-produced Gaycation, an ongoing travel series that seeks out LGBTQ stories around the world.

Making Gaycation has been politically eye-opening for Page, exposing her to the lives of marginalised groups in the United States and elsewhere.

This was one reason she says she was not at all surprised by the electoral victory of Mr Trump last November.

Filming Gaycation, she has "experienced, in so many places, how fear is utilised to control and to govern and protect wealth, and you see how much people suffer, and how connected the dots are in terms of what people are saying and then the micro-impact on people's lives".

"It's sort of 'out of sight, out of mind' for a lot of people, hence (the current political climate) seems such a big new crazy thing - whereas for most people, it's not, it's their reality every day."

Her film Flatliners, which opens in Singapore today, is a remake of the 1990 thriller of the same name.

It follows a group of medical students as they induce near-death experiences in one another, with alarming effects.

Page notes that the death motif also runs through two other films of hers that debuted last month at a Toronto film festival: the zombie flick The Cured and My Days Of Mercy, a story of star-crossed lovers.

"I guess (death) is something I think about and I feel like right now, we have (that sense of) impermanence surrounding us even more, in terms of what's going on in the world."

Yet getting older is something the actress is enjoying.

"I'm feeling a difference in terms of less worry and 'Oh, what did I say?' (I'm) just less neurotic, I suppose, and I think that's come with being 30 now."

She also "feels a lot more confident" after serving as an executive producer on The Cured and My Days Of Mercy, as well as on Gaycation.

"It felt nice to be developing things and also, as a young woman in this industry, just being more, like, 'Yeah, this is what I have to say right now', versus being timid or scared to have an opinion.'"

•Flatliners opens in Singapore today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2017, with the headline 'She's a celebrity and she wants to speak up'. Subscribe