There is something immediately disarming about Sarah Gadon. Characterized by a cool breed of beauty that would have turned Hitchcock’s head, this blue-eyed, fair-haired actress negates any misgivings one may have of her as the reticent Hollywood starlet with her candid conversation and easy laugh. There is no aloofness to chip through when meeting the 25-year-old actress for the first time, and, comparatively, zero indication of mannered charm waxing an “average Jill” persona. She’s the type of person that, were you to arrive 10 minutes early for an interview with her, she’d already be there at the coffee shop waiting, passing the time reading, not messaging and Twittering on her phone.
Exemplifying archetypal Canadian humility, the actress is genuinely still wide-eyed by how her experience with the international film festival circuit — TIFF in particular — has come full circle with the success she’s had as director David Cronenberg’s new muse. Taking me back to her introduction to the festival scene, Gadon recalls her earliest experience at an official TIFF press conference, where the guest talent from the 2007 programming line up included herself, there as one of the representatives from Canadian short Burgeon and Fade, and her future director, Cronenberg, attending with his Eastern Promises star, Viggo Mortensen. While her film got less then desirable media attention at the conference, Gadon watched in awe as the Eastern Promises‘ duo basked in the spotlight and fielded the bulk of the journalists’ questions. “The Canadian press erupted for them when they walked into the room. All the women laughed extra loud at Viggo’s jokes. And nobody talked to us,” she shares, laughing. “I remember looking over at them and thinking ‘Those guys are so lucky…they’re so lucky…I can’t believe they have this platform. I wish one day I could be part of something like that. I wish one day I could be a part of a film that people wanted to talk about and care about.'”
Well, “one day” has arrived, and that buzz Gadon remembers longing for is exactly what does encircle the films her named is attached to as of late. From last year’s international film festival staple A Dangerous Method (her first Cronenberg feature), to American Psycho director Mary Harron’s horror drama, The Moth Diaries (premiered at TIFF 2011 and in theatres across North America this month), on to playing the wife of Robert Pattinson in the upcoming Cronenberg adaptation of Don DeLillo’s apocalyptic tale, Cosmopolis, and starring in Antiviral, the feature debut of Brandon Cronenberg (son of David), there’s no doubt, Gadon is a part of films people want to talk about.
Age and looks would dictate that Gadon — who began her climb through the ranks of television over a decade ago — pursue casting as the syrupy sweet girl-next-door in any number of blockbuster rom-coms, but as the actress’s most recent roles in the aforementioned films reveal, she is intent on playing characters distinguished by personality layers of a darker dye.
Fittingly, the harrowing Cosmopolis, a “prophetic” narrative (as Gadon categorizes it) unfurling self-destructive Wall Street greed, sees the actress immerse herself into not just darker, but jet-black waters. Shaking off the reserve demanded by her Dangerous Method role, the actress swaps the inhibitions of her Emma Jung character for the modern liberty of Cosmopolis’s Elise Shifrin, the eccentric poet and heiress, whom 28-year-old, Wall Street rainmaker, Eric Packer (Pattinson) put a ring on not 22 days prior to when the narrative action begins.
“She’s an oddball,” says Gadon of Elise. “When I read the script, I almost thought that she was kind of a hermit, even though she is a socialite, because she’s kind of inaccessible. I almost feel like she’s the type of person that doesn’t see the light of day very often.” Detecting a touch of the Grey Garden recluse in her character, Gadon researched “Big Edie’s” generation of atypical socialites for insight into the enigmatic Elise and her relationship with husband Eric. “She doesn’t really surface, she’s just right under the surface. And, I think her interactions with her husband are all about trying to figure out who he is and what the hell he does. I feel like they’re constantly trying to communicate, but they’re speaking two completely different languages,” the actress explains.
Gadon’s two turns at playing “wife” see her flexing a chameleon knack for transformation. “It’s funny because people don’t recognize me at all, which is kind of what I like,” she giggles. “I go on the red carpet and people are like, ‘You were in A Dangerous Method? Who were you?'” Even co-star Vincent Cassel didn’t recognize the actress out of character during camera call at the Venice Film Festival, a confusion which does nothing but please the actress. “I get so into characters…in ways that I can’t even tell you about,” jokes Gadon about “method” acting. “I like morphing into these characters…I like to create little worlds for them.”
The intimacy of her acting process nearly kept Gadon from taking the role of Hannah Geist in Antiviral, for fear she would not be able to relate to the character. “The character [the director] had me in mind for was an iconic, celebrity female starlet…something that I don’t identify with at all,” explains the actress, who felt “uncomfortable” with the idea of being immersed in the objectification of Hannah. In fact, it was a male role that most intrigued Gadon, who evidently prefers to play against her empirical beauty. But after meeting with director Brandon Cronenberg to discuss the inner-workings of the Hannah character, the actress was convinced she could find her way into the role. “He is extremely persuasive and very specific about his vision,” says Gadon of the director. “He really shed light on the character that I really didn’t see when reading the script.