Ellen Page to trade pageants for pileups in roller derby film


Yesterday, Variety reported that Ellen Page has signed on to play a roller derby queen in Drew Barrymore‘s directing debut, Whip It!

I’m going to ignore the Variety headline for the moment (“Ellen Page to ‘Whip It!’ for Barrymore”) because, well, eww and eyeroll. Let’s focus on the plot summary: Page plays Bliss Cavendar, a blue-haired Texan misfit whose mother keeps pushing her into beauty pageants. Bliss “finds herself” when she joins a roller derby team.

This has so much potential, I don’t even know where to begin. First, roller derby? Campy, retro and almost as gay as billiards! And it’s about time somebody made a roller derby flick, so I can stop mourning that A&E series Rollergirls.

Second, Barrymore and Page might prove to be a dream team. I guess there’s no guarantee that Drew will be a good director, but she seems fairly likely to understand that roller derby is inherently campy. (In other words, I doubt she’ll go the route of the cringeworthy, far-too-earnest musical called Roller Derby.) Barrymore has been interested in the project for years, but it took Page’s interest to seal the deal. I was hoping that Page would be Diablo Cody‘s long-term muse, but maybe she’ll be Barrymore’s instead.

Last, the screenwriter seems very cool — this isn’t the roller derby script Jackie Woodman has been working on since forever. Real-life derby star Shauna Cross, aka Maggie Mayhem, adapted the screenplay from her novel Derby Girl. The story is semiautobiographical. Here’s Cross’ take on pageants and derby:

The juxtaposition of the beauty pageant world and the roller derby world was really fascinating to me because they both represent two extreme ideas of femininity. One is about perfectly coifed physical perfection, but when you look closer, it’s actually kind of brutal, I think. While the other is anarchy and bruises, and yet, it’s the most female-empowering thing I’ve ever experienced. It’s like plastic sexy versus real sexy.

Maybe the film will be something like Drop Dead Gorgeous. (And hey, Allison Janney was in that one, as well as Juno. Can she please be in this film too?) Or maybe Whip It! will be more like Stick It. Or maybe it will be like Ice Castles. Nah, not with Ellen Page’s attitude: “I can’t wait to kick ass on wheels!”

On that note, I’m happy to have an excuse to post a clip of Page’s recent appearance on Late Night With David Letterman. In the interview, she revealed that she lives in a former bordello that seems to be haunted — her makeup occasionally goes missing, and she fears she’ll someday encounter a “transparent slut.” Page also shared her knowledge of maritime provinces and harbor explosions. I can’t believe she’s only 20 — I wasn’t this smart when I was 20 (or, if I was, I certainly wasn’t this eloquent).



Whip It! starts filming this summer. Meanwhile, writer Cross is working on a couple of other films: a “rebel cheerleader movie” called Shake It Up, and a script about some strippers who form a union. Cross says, “I guess my thing is funny, smart rebel girls.” I feel you, Maggie Mayhem!

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