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Elliot Page on his new film Close To You: ‘It was a healing experience’

Elliot Page has said his new film Close To You was a “healing experience” as he does not feel he would have been able to be as “comfortable and present” on a project before his transition.

The story sees Page play Sam, a man who is preparing to return home for a family reunion for the first time since his transition.

Created by filmmaker Dominic Savage and Page, the project also marks the Oscar-nominated actor’s return to the big screen since he came out as transgender in 2020.

Reflecting on if the discussions around his character’s identity felt cathartic, Page told the PA news agency: “Yeah, I would say that. And also, I’m not sure what point I realised it, but I was like ‘There’s no way I would have been able to do this before my transition’.

“That I would have been able to feel comfortable and present and grounded enough to actually exist and create that openly.

“And so, for me, waking up every day so excited to go to set, that to me was a big, big healing. A healing experience.”

Page, 37, explained that the team wanted to approach the character’s coming out story with more “nuance” instead of them receiving “hateful or abusive” responses, which he feels viewers are more used to within narratives.

“We did want to find something that was a little different. Parents that are accepting of his transness but maybe are still struggling to fully see Sam, are trying their best but not getting it quite right”, he said.

“And I think, in terms of representation and seeing yourself reflected on film, I think a lot of people will see these little moments that relate to them and why it is challenging sometimes, especially, I think, early in your transition when those things are just constantly happening.

Harper’s Bazaar Women of the Year Awards 2018 – London
Page said his partnership with Dominic Savage while working on the film felt ‘effortless’ and ‘organic’ (Ian West/PA)

“Sam, for example, he needed some space to really be able to live his life on his own terms.”

Like many of Savage’s past work, including his award-winning, female-led I Am series for Channel 4, the film was largely improvised.

This meant that a number of scenes reflect Page’s initial reaction to comments made to his character about their identity.

“When you’re in it, you’re feeling those feelings. I’m expressing that anger that I feel. And there’s a catharsis to that, too”, he added.

The actor also admitted that he found improvising the scenes “terrifying” at first as he was not sure if he would be able to do it but praised Savage’s ability to guide the process.

He explained: “When it did just start, it just happened, and you’d find yourself really disappearing into a different reality.

“It’s not normal as an actor working in film that you do a 23 minutes take, a 40 minute take… and so you get that exhilarating joy that you feel in acting but it’s not cut after two minutes, you get to go and go and go. And it was just an absolute joy.”

Page also said his partnership with Savage on the film felt “effortless” and “organic”.

“We really just connected. Connected with similar tastes, reasons why we like to make things and and that’s really how it all began”, he said.

The film also sees him star opposite The East actress Hillary Baack who plays Sam’s old friend who he encounters on his way home and offers an element of romance to the plot.

Page is best-known for his Oscar-nominated role in 2007 coming-of-age drama Juno, and more recently for starring in Netflix superhero series The Umbrella Academy.

He has also starred alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Cillian Murphy in Christopher Nolan’s 2011 thriller Inception and the X-Men series.

Before Page released his memoir Pageboy last year, the actor said he hopes it will help others feel less alone and “seen, no matter who they are or what path they are on”.

Close To You had its European premiere this week at BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival and it is expected to be screened later this year.