Magazine article Screen International

Sarah Gadon on Starring in 'Alias Grace': "I Was Completely Consumed"

Magazine article Screen International

Sarah Gadon on Starring in 'Alias Grace': "I Was Completely Consumed"

Article excerpt

Margaret Atwood’s novel was adapted for screen by fellow Canadian Sarah Polley.

(from left) Anna Paquin, writer Sarah Polley and author Margaret Atwood, who plays a small part in episode one of ‘Alias Grace’

“It was one of those ‘hold me back’ moments - ‘What do I have to do to be able to work with her?’” recalls rising Canadian star Sarah Gadon of the moment she learned her compatriot, Sarah Polley, was adapting Margaret Atwood’s novel Alias Grace for Netflix.

“I always looked up to her as an actress and watched her transition into this incredible writer/producer/director creative,” says Gadon of Polley. “Everything she has ever done has been this kind of crazy passion project for her.” Gadon met with Polley, who wrote and produced the limited series, and Mary Harron, who was on board as director of all six episodes. After several auditions, she landed the lead role of Grace in Atwood’s sinuous narrative about a 19th-century Irish immigrant maid in Canada accused of murdering her former employers.

Having Atwood on set was a boon, says Gadon. Polley had first approached the author to buy the rights to the novel when she was 17, and their closeness infused the production.

“There was a real openness with the material and the project and every layer of filmmaking,” says Gadon. Atwood, whose novel The Handmaid’s Tale inspired the acclaimed Hulu show, was on hand to offer her scholarly insights into the period. “It was a real sense of relief when she watched the show and she really embraced my performance, because it’s such a complicated character to play. She is kind of the only critic [that matters] and so I feel very grateful that she approved.”

It was a few choice words from legendary writer/producer James Schamus that steered Gadon toward the part. “I studied film theory and criticism so I feel I’ve always been very director-driven,” says the actress, who has previously worked with Denis Villeneuve on Enemy and David Cronenberg on Maps To The Stars and Cosmopolis. …

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