Amy Sussman/Getty Images
Amy Sussman/Getty Images
Amy Sussman/Getty Images
Sarah Polley was a wildly successful child actor in her native Canada and went on to star in a bunch of movies from The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to Go. Like many, she decided she really wanted to direct, but like nobody else, her first movie was nominated for two Academy Awards. Her latest film, Women Talking, is out now and is already receiving the same amount of acclaim.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Peter Sagal: Your life is kind of astonishing. And I'm going to start by asking you a question that I often ask to people who were successful child actors and are now adults, which is why aren't you crazy?
Sarah Polley: It's intermittent, intermittent craziness, really.
It comes and it goes, is what you're saying.
Yeah, I mean I think that I had a lot of luck along the way and a lot of therapy. That helped.
How old were you when you became a professional actor? I understand you were quite young.
I think I was four or five. It was in a movie called One Magic Christmas, which is like the most depressing Christmas movie ever made with Harry Dean Stanton.
Wait a minute. I'm sorry I missed this in your resume. You were in a Christmas movie with Harry Dean Stanton?
Yeah. It's really, really bleak.
Are you like his beloved daughter that he sells to buy cigarettes? Because I'm thinking of Harry Dean Stanton, and that's the sort of thing he might do.
It's pretty close!
How does that happen? Now, I know that your father, who raised you, was an actor.
My mom was also a casting director, and she had been an actor for a long time [before she] was a casting director. So it's not like a complete mystery how I ended up being an actor.
There were some movies that became pretty big that we understand you were almost in. Like, we heard a strange story about your audition for the lead in Almost Famous [which is that] that you showed up and Brad Pitt never did.
So I was actually attached to that movie for a while. I was cast in that movie, and I was in rehearsals for it. And yet, Brad wasn't coming to rehearsals ever. And so then I ended up quitting...
I have a bunch of questions, first of all. So you're cast in the movie and. Brad Pitt is cast in the movie, and Brad Pitt simply never shows up.
I mean, I think he was busy. I think he had just met Jennifer Aniston, I believe. So, you know, I give him a pass.
This latest movie, Women Talking, we understand, arose from your pandemic book club.
It was in my book club, which is not just a pandemic book club. But yes, somebody in my book club took me aside one day and said, "I know what your next film is," and described the book to me. And I'd always been a huge fan of the author, Miriam Toews. And I ran out and got the book and knew immediately I wanted to direct it and I hadn't directed anything in around ten or 11 years. I have three little kids, I had a concussion that lasted on and off for three and a half years. There were a million reasons why I wasn't going to make a film again. And this book just motivated me to want so desperately to make another film.
Wow. So you're like, "All right, this woman was right. I'm going to make this movie." Has it changed the dynamic in your book club? I mean, because somebody in your book club, somebody handed you a movie, you made a movie. Now it's this big thing and it's probably going to get all these awards. Are people coming to the book club and going, "Oh, I'm suggesting, for this book club, this thing that I wrote."
Not yet, I'm hopeful that this will not change the book club.
I hope not. One last question about the movie. So I'm watching the movie. I'm enjoying the movie, if that's the right word for such an intense experience. The movie is over and I'm seeing the credits. And one of the producers is Brad Pitt. So he showed up?
I have an interesting thing to tell you.
I did not talk to Brad Pitt at all on this movie. So this is his company, but Dede Gardner was my main producer and Jeremy Kleiner was involved. But I actually had no interactions with Brad Pitt once again.
So, 20 years later. And you're still waiting for Brad Pitt. The movie is getting, like I said, a lot of, as they say in the business, buzz about the awards season. Are you excited about that or do you dread it?
I mean, I don't take awards stuff too seriously, but I'm just trying to enjoy it all like a shiny toy and not be too devastated when it gets taken away.
You seem very healthy. I mean, like, really normal.
Well, you can't see me. I could look like a complete wreck right now.
You could be full-on Norma Desmond, I wouldn't know.
I could be in a Miss Havisham, like, yellowed wedding dress.
You could still be in your costume from Almost Famous. Waiting for Brad Pitt to show up at long last.
How did you know? I'm in that fur coat right now!
Cobwebs on your 60s-style sundress.
No, it's pretty accurate!
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