Ellen Page on Her New Zombie Thriller, Filming Post-Election & #TimesUp

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Ellen Page's new film, The Cured, sees the out queer actress in a violently different setting from anything we've seen before—quite literally. The Cured is a bloody, zombie-filled psychological thriller, but the worn-out trope ends there.

Rather than tell a classic tale of zombies spreading and taking over civilization, this movie begins after the attack of the undead has already happened: there have been devastating casualties, sure, but regular life has, for the most part, resumed. And what's more, a cure has been found to restore those infected with the monstrous virus that turns regular, docile humans into flesh eating demons.

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A few problems still remain: the vaccination has proven only to heal a large percentage of zombies, leaving several thousand locked in cages and thrashing about, crazed for human blood. Also, the humans who were able to escape infection aren't exactly playing nice with their "cured" neighbors. Oh, and one more thing: the people who have been brought back from their zombie disease into a rational state of mind—"the cured"—can remember everything they did while infected. Every life they took, every body part they ate. All of it.

Page plays the mother of a young boy whose husband was killed during the zombie attacks. Grieving and lonely, she agrees to take in her brother-in-law, recently cured of the zombie infection. We were curious to get her thoughts on the film's themes of redemption, and of stigmatization, and how this zombie disease story could be interpreted as allegorical of the AIDS epidemic. While we were chatting, we also got to talking about the election, #TimesUp, and if she sees more horror films in her future—read on to find out:

OUT: What was it about this story that made you want to be a part of a zombie movie?

Ellen Page: Well, the first reason was that I loved the characters, and how they moved. I felt like it was something I hadn’t seen before, and I really enjoy the genre. I loved… I remember seeing 28 Days Later in high school and this in particular was so interesting to me because it’s a zombie movie that takes place after the zombie apocalypse has already happened, and I just felt like it told a story of an aftermath that I felt was done in a really unique and compelling way.

One takeaway that I had from it was maybe this could be a sort of analogy for how people see homosexuals or people with AIDs, in the sense of that ostracizing going on. Is that something you thought about as you were reading the script?

Yeah, well I think it’s interesting doing press for this—it’s like everybody has a different take away on some level. I think that’s what actually makes a story that is so obviously fantasy become so personal for people, because it explores all these ideas. You know, I think for me, one of the big factors of using fear and fear of the other in order to gain power—like the character of Conor, for example. For me, it’s always just fascinating to think about what are the moral compromises I would make in a situation like that. And probably why the post-apocalyptic genre is so attractive to people in terms of, “Who we would be?” and “Would I let a dead person come stay with me?” or what have you, so I think it’s all these different factors.

What would you say are the answers to those questions—if you were actually in this situation, would you take in someone who had been infected? Do you think you would survive a zombie apocalypse, if it were to happen?

I find it hard to believe that I would survive. I don’t know. I would like to think that I would take in someone of question.

In playing this role with such high emotional stakes, did you have to prepare in a certain way to get in this headspace of such life-and-death, super dramatic, dark places? Or were you able to just kind of tap into it? 

Yeah, I mean it was an interesting time, because our last day of pre-production Trump got elected.

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Oh, shit.

So I was like, watching those results coming in and starting to shoot this movie. It was a relatively grim time all around and the script… You know, it is funny, you have an individual trying to be integrated back into society, people don’t want them, they have the memories of what they’ve done. My character went through an enormous amount of trauma, she lost her husband and she, on some level, hasn’t even been able to sort of deal with her grief and trauma because she has a son. That’s the most important thing, is sort of creating a life again for him. So, it’s definitely a heavy one, but I was in Dublin, which was amazing, and it’s just a beautiful and welcoming place. I think walking around Dublin was my decompression time.

How do you feel the film changed context pre-election and post-election?

Well, I think this would be a better question for Dave (Freyne) because he has been with the script for so long—three years, but I think when he was writing this, sort of the rise of populist politicians popping up throughout Europe and whatnot… So the script has a lot to do, obviously, with the fear of other and, you know, utilizing and exploiting people’s fear and anger. That’s obviously something we’re seeing, yes, and have always, of course. Yeah, I think it allowed for a lot of… more anger, I suppose.

Do you feel like this film was a different experience in the wake of the #MeToo movement—were there any memorable conversations you had about #TimesUp or #MeToo on set?

No, not that I recall specifically on this film, no.

You've shared your experiences working with Brett Ratner and how that had been a troubling memory... do you have any further thoughts in general on how #TimesUp is impacting the industry?

Oh, goodness. Obviously I hope there will be massive changes—to be more inclusive on every level in every aspect of all the different jobs that make up this industry. That’s a huge, huge, huge problem. I’m hoping to see that change, for real change to happen. Because, yeah, the Brett Ratner experience and many, many other experiences I’ve had have, you know, not been great. I would hope that we change this whole system that is obviously not working.

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Do you see yourself doing more horror-type content down the line?

I mean, for sure—I think horror films are just so fantastic. I love The Babadook, and what’s the Toni Collette one called coming out, Hereditary, I think?

Oh, that looks so good!

It looks so terrifying! And she’s always so good. I think, you know, people are doing such interesting, new things with that genre, so of course I will.

The Cured is in select theaters and available for streaming now. Watch the trailer below:

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