Into the Forest is a riveting, suspenseful and, at times, heartbreaking apocalyptic drama set in the near future, that follows two sisters, Nell (Ellen Page) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood). Their peaceful lives are disrupted one day by what turns out to be a continent-wide black-out, and as time goes on, their difficult circumstances become more and more serious, as they work together in order to survive in such a treacherous new world.
At the film’s press day, Collider was invited to sit down with co-stars Evan Rachel Wood and Ellen Page (who is also a producer on the film), whose work in the film is truly terrific. During the exclusive interview, they talked about why they wanted to tell this story, why Patricia Rozema was the perfect writer/director to share the experience with, keeping a sense of fun on a sometimes heavy shoot, challenges they faced during production, and the joy of getting to work with each other. Wood also talked about her work in the upcoming HBO series Westworld and why the project is so special, while Page talked about The Third Wave, which is a new take on the zombie genre, where once-infected zombies who are now cured are discriminated against by society and their own families.
Collider: Your performances in this film are so remarkable. You’re both completely bared, both literally and figuratively, and this must have been quite the journey to take with each other.
EVAN RACHEL WOOD: It was a journey of epic proportions, for sure.
Ellen, when you read this book, what did you see in the story that made you want to be a part of turning it into a film?
ELLEN PAGE: Well, it’s a beautiful book, so for those who are thinking about reading it, they absolutely should. First and foremost, I just devoured it, as a story. At that time, and still, it just encompassed a lot of things that I was thinking about, and that the world is thinking about, with society’s relationship to the environment, our personal relationship to it, and how disconnected we are from it, myself included. And then, to be told, through sisters and their relationship and how they have to be resilient and persevere to survive, made an interesting movie.
Evan, how did you come to the film, and did you just read the script or did you also read the book?
WOOD: Both. Ellen and I had only met a couple of times, but had mutual admiration for each other’s work. When I first heard about the film, I was excited to get a chance to work with one of my peers because it’s usually one or the other. You don’t get to work with all of the other actors that you’re usually competing with. And there was something so cool about being able to carry this film together and to play off of each other. It was like having the most worthy tennis opponent. You just knew you were in great hands with somebody so talented, so bright and with such depth. We both loved the script and the book, which I read after I read the script, and highlighted it and dog-eared it to craziness. We were just so willing to throw ourselves in, head first, and we knew that part of that was going to be to open up to each other and get close to feel safe, which I think we did. It was even more profound than I thought it was going to be. I was a mess when the movie ended and I had to say goodbye. It was one of the hardest endings.
PAGE: We became so close, in the process of leading up to making the film. We were saying goodbye to each other, wrapping the film, and we knew we’d be seeing each other again. She was going away to start Westworld, but I knew I was going to see her, and we were sobbing. But I think it was such a special experience to have with someone that you know, you love, you trust, and you feel protected by. In that space, you become two different people and you forge this whole other relationship. It was a really fascinating experience.
WOOD: It really was, especially because it’s just focused on us and there weren’t many other characters in the film. It was her and I, propping each other up the whole time. And to have it be such an emotional roller coaster with the characters, and to go through that together, and then to drop in our own pain and vulnerabilities, and to share those with each other, was just really, really special. Yes, of course, I’m going to see Ellen again, but not in that way, unless we get together and role play.
With a story like this, it seems as though who the director is would be crucial. So, what was it like to add Patricia Rozema to the mix?
PAGE: I’ve always been a huge fan of Patricia’s, as a director and as a writer, and she’s a friend. For me, Patricia is one of those people who can cross genre in a way that I think has been pretty incredible, if you look at her career and the versatility of her work. I remember having been with this book for a long time, and I remember the moment that she sent me the script and what it was like to read it for the first time. I just was so blown away by how she managed to capture the story and their relationship to each other, and the nuances of that. Patricia is really special, and she really worked hard to make the environment and the landscapes’ natural beauty come alive. She was not forceful with anything, but enabled it to really have this poetic nature. That’s all her.
How refreshing was it, as women in this business, to play two female leads whose lives are not dependent on men and they’re not rivals with each other?
PAGE: Yeah. We’re friends, and we’re both friends with actresses our age, but we never get to work with each other because there’s one girl in the movie, or whatever. For me, it was just so amazing to get to work with Evan, who I’ve loved forever. I loved Thirteen and I loved Pretty Persuasion, and was always just so blown away by her. It was nice, and sadly, it is so rare.
WOOD: I also loved that there was a beautiful balance to it, where they were strong and survivors and doing things in the film that we normally only see men do, but they were still human and vulnerable, and they still broke and had moments of weakness. That’s something that we don’t often get to see in these films, either. In the same way that we don’t get to see women be strong, we don’t get to see men be weak or vulnerable, so I love that this film has a balance.
PAGE: I recently rewatched Stand By Me and was like, “Wow, this is so powerful because these young men are so vulnerable and so emotional, and love each other.” That’s a rare quality for a film.
WOOD: And that just goes to show the lie that we’re told that, “If you make a movie about women, men aren’t going to be able to relate to it. We don’t make a lot of them because they’re going to alienate people.” I loved Stand By Me. I loved Tombstone. Give men a little credit. Maybe we’ll be able to humanize women more and see more of their depth as people.
It seems as though so many things in this movie must have been challenging. Was there anything that was most challenging for you, or that felt like the biggest hurdle?
WOOD: [The dancing] was a challenge. It was fun, though. I was nervous, at first, because I danced so long ago that it was weird picking it back up. In the back, she was a ballet dancer, and you have to keep at that to be good at it. The second I got the part, I started taking ballet again to try to regain my strength back. I actually love that it was changed to Crystal Pite’s modern dance. And I wouldn’t even really call it modern dance because it feels like it’s in its own genre. When she choreographed the dance and we were coming up with it, she did it once and, I swear to god, she was such a perfect fit because she was like all of the elements. She moved like water, she grooved like a tree, and she burned like fire. It was just the perfect match for this film because all of those things are their own characters in the movie. The synergy was really incredible, and she’s just such a lovely human being. I love working with her. It was a fun challenge. It was cool. And then, for the song “Wild is the Wind,” we were just choreographing the number and I was like, “Do you mind if I try it once, listening to this?” When I heard it, I just felt like it was these girls. It reminded me of them.
PAGE: That’s one of my favorite songs of all time. It’s so beautiful. It’s an old song, sung by Nina Simone. This is the Cat Power cover. We pushed hard to get it and were lucky. It’s so stunning.
Did you guys have days on set that were fun?
PAGE: Oh, we did have a lot of fun.
WOOD: Surprisingly, I think because it was so heavy, we made a point of having fun. We always had this running joke that there was a whole other cut of the film that was just our weird takes on the scenes and the jokes that we made ‘cause you just had to make light out of a bad situation. We laughed a lot.
PAGE: We laugh a lot together, and that was nice. We separated it all by just hanging out and having fun.
WOOD: In between takes and when we weren’t filming, it was rare that we would just separate and go to our trailers. We were inseparable. That’s just how it was.
PAGE: It was nice.
Evan, Westworld is very highly anticipated, and having seen some footage of it, it seems wild, crazy and amazing. What are you most excited about people finally getting to see with the show?
WOOD: So many things. I’m also tickled at how little people know. All the expectations and the guesses I’ve heard are not even in the ball park. So, I love that people are going to go in thinking it’s one thing, and being very surprised to find it another, in a good way. All of the action, and the Wild West West fun, crazy, HBO stuff is in there and it’s all amazing, but what separates the show is that it’s an existential drama. It’s an intellectual nightmare. It is all very much based in reality. A lot of the technologies that we’re exploring is stuff that we’re working at, right now. All of this is not that far away. It’s taking a look at humanity and the state that we’re in now and what would happen, if we kept on going the way that we’re going and we created this artificial intelligence. The only thing they have to work off of is what we show them, but then, if they advance and surpass us, what would be the biggest threat? We would. You should be scared. I’m scared. But I feel like maybe I’m going to be in with the robots because they’ll see the show and think I’m one of them. Honestly, we’ve had these talks on set about, “Maybe they’ll spare us because we’re going to be their heroes.” When I watch the show, it leaves me looking at the world around me in a new way. It really stays with you. And it’s one of those things that you have to figure out. You’re going to get little clues along the way, and every time you think you know what’s up, we’re going to flip it around. It’s going to take you for a really awesome, crazy ride, but it’s a really, really revolutionary character for women. There’s a lot of really fun stuff to look forward to.
How does it compare to what you thought it would be? Do you feel like you knew, going in, what it would turn out to be?
WOOD: It’s J.J. Abrams and Jonah Nolan and Lisa Joy, who are brilliant people, so I knew it was going to be amazing. The rest of the cast, including Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris, is amazing. But I still didn’t know, until about Episode 4 or 5, and that’s when I really understood what the show was and what character I was playing. I had to go off and have a mini panic attack because I realized what was on my shoulders and just how it was surpassing my expectations. It was such a bigger picture than what I thought it was. It’s more of a revolution than a TV show. I don’t think people are going to expect it. They’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m excited. And everyone working on it, we’re all in agreement that it’s our Odyssey. We’re like, “This is going to be the one.” Everyone in the top of their fields is pouring everything they have into this, which is why it was such a massive undertaking and why filming was extended. It’s not because things are going badly. It’s because they’re so massive and it’s so complicated and we want to get it right. We’re not just phoning it in. We’re taking our time with it because it’s really important.
When you’re working on something like that, it must be nice that they can take a step back and say that they need a minute.
WOOD: Yeah. I think more people should do that, in general. I’m excited. I’m excited about this character. It’s my favorite character that I’ve played.
Ellen, The Third Wave sounds like a really different and interesting take on the zombie genre. Was that the appeal for you?
PAGE: Yeah. I’ve never done a movie in that genre, and I love a lot of those movies. I watched the director’s (David Freyne) short film (The First Wave), which I loved. And the script was just so good. He’s found this way to tell a new story. I’m excited. I’ve never been to Ireland before and I’ve always wanted to go, so I’m looking forward to making the movie.
Who is the character that you’re playing in that?
PAGE: She’s from the United States and she’s a journalist that lives in Dublin with her young son. During the time of the infection, her husband was killed and she’s basically living in this society that’s trying to figure out how to put itself back together. I’m really excited about it.
Into the Forest opens in theaters on July 29th.