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‘I never thought I would feel this way’

Elliot Page hasn’t appeared in a feature film in six years, and his grand return to the big screen reintroduces the Oscar-nominated actor in a deeply moving way.

The 36-year-old created the story for, produces and stars in British director Dominic Savage’s highly improvised independent drama Close to you as Sam, a trans man who reconnects with a former flame (Sound of metal‘s Hillary Baack) as he traveled to suburban Canada for an awkward reunion with his family. The project – Page’s first film since coming out as transgender in 2020 – opens with a quietly powerful scene in which a shirtless Sam gets out of bed, peers out his bedroom window and puts on his clothes before going downstairs to make a cup of tea. . It might read like a routine sequence if there had been another actor in the lead role, but it’s the first time audiences see Page on screen, living as his authentic self – and the impact is not lost on him.

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Close to you. Elliot Page

TIFF Elliot Page in ‘Close to you’

“During the shoot on the day I got out of bed and got dressed, it was a little awkward, like, ‘Oh, it would be great, he sleeps shirtless.’ The moment you make this, you’re making it from an instinctive place that I don’t know how to describe. It just happens, but at the same time it just felt natural,” Page tells EW. in a joint interview with Savage and Baack, just ahead of the film’s world premiere at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. “Showing this guy feeling comfortable and present and waking up in his body, that means a lot to me. I never thought I would feel this way, so it’s nice to be able to do that.”

He calls the process of playing a trans man struggling with relatable issues a “liberating” experience and a career highlight, especially since he’s never felt more comfortable expressing himself in a character.

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“The way I feel about working now is much more embodied by that foundation, than going in and not feeling that way. It’s a huge change. Before, doing something like that, complete improvisation, would have been almost impossible, Page explains. “The feeling that I could do it and that I was present enough to do it, I felt excited every day. What a special film to make, the first time [back on film]because it makes you feel embodied to the utmost.”

The Juno And Umbrella Academy star notes that rewatching the film for the first time was a unique experience, seeing himself at ease while in a character, having previously written that he has felt so out of place on film sets in the past that he stress developed. caused shingles on Christopher Nolan’s set Commencement.

TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 10: Elliot Page attends the "Close to you" premiering at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival at the Royal Alexandra Theater on September 10, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario.  (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

TORONTO, ONTARIO – SEPTEMBER 10: Elliot Page attends the premiere of “Close to You” during the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival at the Royal Alexandra Theater on September 10, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Michael Loccisano/Getty Elliot Page at the ‘Close to You’ premiere at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival

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‘When I felt most uncomfortable, that one [past] When you perform, you’re a little stiffer and less loose,” he recalls. “There’s less ability to go with the flow in the present moment.”

Savage adds that he approaches each scene with little structure, which he suspects “somehow makes the actors feel like they’re safe in what they’re doing, that they’re respected and that they feel comfortable ” by going to deep places. in the film – such as a scene where Sam confronts a transphobic in-law, or subtly addresses the use of his mother’s pronoun.

“They trust me with that, and that’s important,” Savage says. “Of course I provide access to the scenes and places to go, but in reality I also give them more power.”

Close to you doesn’t have an official release date yet, though the film will be shown again for TIFF audiences on Monday at 12:15 PM ET.

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