Into the Forest is not your typical apocalyptic sci-fi movie. Directed by Patricia Rozema from a 1996 novel by Jean Hegland, the movie stars Ellen Page (who’s also a producer on the film) and Evan Rachel Wood as two sisters living in their remote Northwest home with their father (Callum Keith Rennie), whose lives change when power and communications are disrupted nationwide by an unknown occurrence. When the power does not come back and there are signs that society is beginning to break down, the two siblings suddenly find themselves alone as well and facing a dangerous new world.
While both actresses have ties to the sci-fi genre, Page through her role as Kitty Pride in the X-Men movies and Wood with her upcoming turn in Jonathan Nolan’s Westworld series, Into the Forest is a quiet, meditative and yet foreboding character study. Page and Wood generate effortless chemistry together as they play two young women who must learn to let go of the world they once knew. Their enthusiasm for the project and for working together was palpable as well when Den of Geek sat down with both of them recently in Los Angeles.
Den of Geek: Ellen, you were kind of the catalyst for this, right? You just kind of stumbled upon the book, right?
Ellen Page: Yeah. I was in a store in Halifax, Nova Scotia that I love, sort of like an environmental friendly sort of store. But they had a great book section. So I went in there all the time. The woman who worked there — which I feel so bad; I’ve forgotten her name — she handed me the book and she said, “Hey, you should read this. I think it would make a good movie.” I remember reading the back of it and I was like, “Huh.” Then I just devoured the book and I was so moved by it and said, “Why don’t we start developing this into a film?” So that’s how it all started.
Was this your first foray into producing?
What did you learn about producing that you didn’t know before?
Page: I mean lots of things. And I am continuing to do it, and I hope I continue to learn more. It’s a lot to learn. I was lucky to work with really wonderful people who really did teach me a lot, not only in terms of what it means to put a film together creatively, but also what it means to put a film together financially. So I have more knowledge in that. That’s nice to have and to know and what that means, and how hard that can be [laughs], understandably so.
But for me, yeah, it’s been a really amazing experience to get to be involved with all these different elements, whether it’s choosing a composer, or cinematographer, or, needless to say, putting a cast together, looking at the houses during the location scouts. I wasn’t there as a part of the location scouting. But you know what I’m saying. All of these just different…everything. Is it as much as what Patricia does? Of course not. I was just really lucky to work with people who helped me learn.
Evan, what came first for you, the book or the script? And what appealed to about what you read?
Evan Rachel Wood: Well, Ellen kinda came first. [laughs] I met her briefly and did what you do when you want to be friends with somebody. [laughs] I mentioned her on Twitter in a tweet. It was like, “I met Ellen Page last night and she’s so beautiful and lovely!” So then we started talking. And then she sent me the script. I read it immediately and said yes immediately. [laughs]
I was already kind of ready to do it, even just the fact that Ellen was starring in it and that she believed in it. I look her up to her so much, and her taste, and her talent, and was like, “Well, I’m sure it’s going to be great.” And it exceeded my expectations and really blew me away.
I just couldn’t believe that it had fallen into my lap, because I felt so incredibly connected to my character, and I understood her, and I really…I haven’t had that feeling about a script since I had read Thirteen or The Wrestler when I was just like, “No one else can do this.” I just feel so passionate about it. So I just felt so lucky that she felt the same way. And then we started hanging out a lot to prepare about a year before shooting because she was setting up the movie.
There’s a real chemistry on the screen and you do seem like sisters. Did your personal relationship sort of form at the same time as you developed the characters?
Page: I think we became so close. We started hanging out, like, “Hell, we have to hang out because we’re playing sisters.” And then we just started hanging out all the time because we got along and became friends. So when it came time to shoot this, it was really something special. There are tiny little moments in the film, tiny little looks.
Wood: By the end we really loved each other. We really did. I love Ellen like family. [laughs] And even if we don’t hang out all the time, she’s still just somebody that always has a place in my heart. This film, it was special for that reason, because as an actress, you usually don’t get to work with other actresses because you are usually up for the same roles, and you don’t get to hang out that much. You can become very reclusive in Hollywood. This gave us permission to be able to open up and be intimate with somebody that you might not normally be kind of brave enough or confident enough to do so with. So it was really cool to get to know her as a person and artist. And getting to act with her after a year of knowing her and be like, “Oh my god! There’s a whole ‘nother thing here!” It was really cool to be her friend and then see Ellen Page on the set. I was like, “Ooh! There it is! It’s so intense! It’s so strong and awesome!” [laughs]
Page: Same with her. I think that is funny to say because I’ve always loved her work and her strength and vulnerability, and the intensity of Evan’s performances. And to know her as a friend, know her as someone who we just have fun, whatever, and then see how present she is when she’s working and how powerful she is. It was really awesome to get to sort of go into this different dimension with each other.
You don’t see a lot of apocalyptic thrillers with two women in the leads. Even Mad Max, it’s Charlize and Tom Hardy. I don’t know if I’m going to say this right, but I think there’s something about the idea that it’s feminine energy that’s going to save us or keep things going, because with men it’s always about aggression – which you see in certain scenes of this film. It just seems that, in some way, women are almost better equipped to deal with something like this.
Wood: I think it’s a feminine energy, not necessarily men versus women, but a nurturing, mothering, loving energy. I think definitely. But I think you need a balance of both. I think right now we’re just so in the extremes and people are just conditioned and given these gender assignments very early on. And we’re starting to see the repercussions of that in a pretty intense way. And I think people are really starting to rebel against that. And I think there’s going to be more and more gray areas. Hopefully that means we’ll see more stories with characters that could be interchangeable with men.
Does doing a story like this make you question your own abilities, what you’d be able to do, how you’d think you’d be able to survive in a situation like this?
Page: I think a lot of people are thinking that way. I think a lot of people in my circle are thinking that way or see the movie and then really think that way. I think it’s hopefully tapping into sort of a consciousness right now in regards to our society’s relationship with the environment and our own and our disconnect from it, myself included. So yeah, I would say those are all things that I think about. And when I read the book, to me it seemed like an intriguing thing to make a movie about.
Into the Forest is out in limited release Friday (July 29).