Out writer/director Patricia Rozema speaks with a cogent mix of cerebral hawk-eye and flowing fervency. Her films do the same. Just slip into Mansfield Park, her luscious film adaptation of the Jane Austen book, and get carried away by the ache and swirl of a young girl in a man’s world. See how she makes a glance between Mary and Fanny ripple layers. Or catch her new film Into the Forest, starring Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood, in theaters this Friday. A powerful modern fairy tale, the film follows two sisters who navigate the border of emotion and grit while alone in a remote cabin after the national power grid crashes.
The Emmy-winning filmmaker first grabbed headlines with an award at the Cannes Film Festival for her debut film, I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, now a lesbian cinema classic. She then turned up the heat with the acclaimed forbidden lesbian romance tale When Night Is Falling, followed by the Grey Gardens film for HBO. She is currently shooting an episode of the hit Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle.
AfterEllen.com: We’re very excited to spotlight you.
Patricia Rozema: AfterEllen was such a pioneer of an entity and really created a space and a meeting place for people in the margins, so long before anyone else did. It’s quite a historically significant place, so anyway, I’m honored.
AE: Let’s start with Into the Forest. From what I understand, this film is very much a collaboration with your producer and actress Ellen Page and actress Evan Rachel Wood, lesbian and bisexual women. What was that dynamic was like, all of you working together?
PR: We all had a kind of ease and understanding of each other because our orientations had major overlap, so that created a trust, I think. And even though the material isn’t explicitly LGBTQ, it still permeated the atmosphere, and I almost felt like there was something very progressive on a queer level for having Ellen come out so publicly, so beautifully, so historically and then have her play a straight girl. I thought there was actually something really important about that, and this film gets attention both in the lesbian world, but also in the straight world, because she’s just being an actor.
And that’s always been the question whether or not someone comes out as gay—whether or not they’re allowed to play straight people anymore, whether people are going to trust them. And we know that the media has embraced her and her coming out, but has the rest of the world? Will studios and will audiences embrace her? That remains to be seen.
Anyway, the atmosphere was great. We loved each other. We just hung out, and we loved each other. I have a very funny little video where they’re sitting in the back seat of the car, and I’m the driver and I’m in the front seat, and they’re pretending to be sisters who are driving each other nuts in the back seat of the car:
“Mom she touched me!”
“I did not touch you! I did not cross the line!”
And I’m yelling, “Girls, girls, shut up, or we’re not making this movie!’
Anyway, we had a riot.