Ellen Page talks 'Beyond Two Souls'
Videogame developer Quantic Dream released its highly anticipated interactive drama, "Beyond: Two Souls" this Tuesday. Quantic Dream is best known for the highly cinematic style it employs in previous titles "Indigo Prophecy" and "Heavy Rain." Inside Beat had the opportunity to speak with the game's lead voice actress, Ellen Page, this past Tuesday.
Page is an experienced film actress, having played notable characters like Kitty "Shadowcat" Pryde in "X-Men: The Last Stand" and the titular character in 2007’s "Juno." The latter performance garnered her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. "Beyond: Two Souls" is Page's first foray into video game voice acting.
"Beyond: Two Souls" follows the story of Jodie Holmes, voiced by Page. Holmes has the supernatural ability to commune with an ethereal being, which she calls Aiden. Having been considered 'different' through much of her life, Holmes forms a friendship with a scientist named Nathan Dawkins, played by fellow Oscar-nominee Willem Dafoe. Together, the pair embarks on a journey across the globe to discover the true nature of Holmes' abilities.
"Jodie is attached to something, and we don't know what it is," Page said. "She's the only person who can see it and talk to it. Sometimes it can be caring and nurturing, and sometimes it can be scary and dangerous."
Page managed to bring her experience from film sets into game development, but ultimately, she says that the two realms are radically different.
"[Making the game] took me out my comfort zone, because it's different from shooting a movie," Page said. "I've never done motion capture before and you're shooting a video game. They're very, very different processes."
Page said that she still has difficulty believing that she is in a video game. She says that playing the game and watching her character's story unfold is strange, yet fulfilling.
"It's weird," she said of being in a video game. "I just wouldn't have expected that that was going to happen. If you told me that like three years ago, I would've said, 'You're drunk.' I didn't know that this opportunity would happen."
Page found the motion capture process to be a particularly interesting process. Motion capture is generally not practiced in live-action movie making, and is an aspect of production with which she had no prior experience. The process involves fitting and moving in a suit with sensor units, which allows computers to digitally render movement.
"What's the weirdest is remembering being in a room with nothing and just seeing how much they were able to capture, and what they're able to create," she said.
"Beyond: Two Souls" follows Page's character over a span of fifteen years. During certain segments, Jodie is portrayed as a young child. She explained that the motion capture and animation teams were able to create a younger likeness of her from her own childhood photos. She also says that her relatively youthful appearance assisted in this process. Page emphasized the contributions of Quantic Dream's development team.
"I'm just a miniscule part of this," she said. "Hundreds of people have put years of work into this."
Page also explained that the script's emotional gravity put her outside her comfort zone as well.
"The game goes to very intense emotional places," she said. "For an actor, it's actually an incredibly, incredibly challenging job."
Page is the latest, but hardly the first, proven screen actor to shift her focus to video games. BioWare's "Mass Effect" series, for instance, featured Martin Sheen ("Wall Street") in a major role and the upcoming title, "Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain," is set to star Keifer Sutherland ("24") as Big Boss.
"For me [choosing the game] is the same as choosing to do any job. [It's about] the material, the character and the director you're going to be working with," Page said. "It was like 'What the hell? A video game?' And then 'Oh wow, this is really compelling and intriguing, and the protagonists are incredible.'"
Page was especially taken aback at the current style of video games. She had not played a video game in many years and was initially surprised at the narrative opportunities that could be undertaken during game development.
Quantic Dream is perhaps best known for its emphasis on scripting as part of the development process. Studio CEO David Cage directed and wrote the game's script. Cage views narrative and character development as two of the most important qualities in developing a game. Page talked about working with him, and about how Cage's script provided her with the opportunity to play a strong female lead, as she has done in her prior film work.
"I think David [Cage] always saw the protagonist in this game and this idea as a girl," she said. "I think that it is incredible that the female protagonist he's written is so strong and smart, but also very vulnerable...and is ultimately very real and complex.
"We can all agree, and others will probably, that I don't look like Lara Croft," she said. "I think it's cool that there's a character in this game who is a vision of what a woman can be that isn't in the very, very narrow gaze that we're used to seeing, not just in the video game world, but in the film world as well."
Now that her work on "Beyond: Two Souls" is complete, Page has turned her attention to other projects. She is currently working on the set of "X-men: Days of Future Past," in which she reprises her role as Shadowcat. She also says that there is a world of other career possibilities for her to consider.
"I'm starting to produce," she said. "That is something that I'm really enjoying. Focusing on the developing side of things, and having that control is something that is really exciting me."
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