Ellen Page made headlines last year when she came out of the closet at 26, which is still a rare occurrence among younger actresses. Shortly before the landmark Supreme Court decision on Friday that legalized gay marriage, Page talked to Variety about how Hollywood helped pave the way for LGBT rights. The Oscar-nominated “Juno” actress will next play a lesbian in the upcoming drama “Freeheld,” which opens on October 2.
Variety’s 106-page marriage equality special issue includes more Q&As, including ones with Neil Patrick Harris, Jennifer Lopez and Ryan Murphy.
How has your life changed since you came out?
I’m happier than I probably could imagine. Now it doesn’t feel like I was ever not out. It’s hard for me to imagine not existing in the way that I’m existing now. It boggles my mind that it seemed so difficult and so impossible. I wish I’d done it sooner, quite frankly. Some dark cloud has completely evaporated, thank goodness.
But it makes sense that it was difficult.
There are still not many young people out in Hollywood. There’s this narrative that people are attached to: You cannot come out because it’s going to hurt your career. And that’s potentially true. When I made the decision to come out, I wasn’t naive to that. Particularly when you’re in your late 20s and becoming a woman. First of all, there aren’t that many roles for you. And second, the roles that do exist, you’re specifically a device for the male character or you’re hypersexualized in regards to the male gaze. For whatever reason, people can believe straight actors playing gay roles, but there’s this idea they can’t believe gay actors playing straight roles. And for me, it got to a point where it didn’t matter.
How has your career changed?
I was feeling uninspired, and lost the love and joy I felt in making films. I’m gay — of course I want to play gay characters. To have the freedom to pursue that without any anxiety is nice.
Has coming out affected the other roles you’re being offered?
I don’t know, because I’m not in rooms when people are having discussions like that. But I don’t really care, to be honest.
Do you feel like Hollywood has advanced the acceptance of gay rights and marriage?
For sure. Aside from all the silliness of Hollywood and what we do, stories are told that are really important, and that touch people and transform how they feel about things, whether it’s been “Philadelphia,” “Brokeback Mountain” or “Milk.” And I think it definitely can change minds and push things forward.
Why haven’t there been gay hits since “Brokeback Mountain”?
Whenever you’re telling a story about a minority group, it’s potentially not as appealing because there’s a feeling it’s not going to get the audience a financier needs. I feel like that’s been proven wrong time and time again, particularly when you’re looking at the diversity on TV right now. You can tell that’s what people want.
Do you think we’ll get to a place where we can have a tentpole headlined by a gay character — like a gay “Spider-Man”?
That would be amazing. I can’t imagine that would happen next year. But maybe in 10 years.
What can Hollywood do better?
It’s so funny with Caitlyn Jenner, who has been so amazing to watch, how obsessed Hollywood is with the binary gender system. A huge thing before I was out was the dress on the carpet and the heels. It’s like, “This is what you have to do.” There was this pressure to look a certain way and be a kind of femininity, which is not what I identify with. If you see me in a dress I look like an idiot.
Do you still wear dresses on a red carpet?
I have not worn a dress since I came out. I wear suits. It’s made the experience of everything so much better.
How does it feel to be a role model to LGBT teens?
I feel extremely fortunate and humble when I have experiences with LGBT people who come up to me and say how I helped them come out. Those moments are really extraordinary. They are typically really emotional. The biggest feeling I get is gratitude. I totally stayed in the closet, and I felt guilty about it. I was finally able to get out, and that was my life journey. I’m interested in gay issues. It’s natural for that to be a part of my life.
Do you see yourself getting married one day?
Yeah, I’d like that.