IN Magazine was on the red carpet to interview the cast of Close To You and stayed after the premiere for the Q&A with the cast and director Dominic Savage…
Trans icon Elliot Page hit the red carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival to much applause and fanfare in his native Canada. Accompanied by co-stars Wendy Crewson, Hillary Baack, and director Dominic Savage to promote their new film, Close To You, Page stopped to sign fan autographs and take selfies with those waiting outside Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre. The world premiere of Page’s movie kicked off at a time when the festival was showcasing some other queer titles like Backspot and Next Goal Wins.
Close To You can easily be seen as a semi-authobiographical journey for Elliot Page, although the actor wouldn’t necessarily describe it that way. A script outlined by Savage and Page, most of the dialogue in the movie is completely improvised by its impressive cast, and Page serves as a producer through his production company, PageBoy Productions. The film stars Page as Sam, a trans person living in Toronto who travels by train to visit his family for his father’s birthday, having left home four years ago to deal with identity issues. On the train, Sam runs into old high school friend Katherine (Baack), and memories of belonging, love, and connection flood through the two like rain.
I had the chance to jump onto the red carpet to interview the cast of Close To You and stayed after the premiere for the Q&A with the cast and director Dominic Savage.
Close To You is a very queer and trans story. Sam seems to be struggling with identity and family issues. Was this a very personal film for you to make at this stage in your career?
Elliot Page: I mean, it was definitely personal, I think. When you’re making something that is improv, I think definitely stuff for everybody in the cast was coming up out of the well. It’s very different from my life in so many ways. But of course, there’s resonant themes and moments.
I had the great pleasure to talk to D.W. Waterson and Devery Jacobs of Backspot, which I know you and your teams at PageBoy produced. They couldn’t stop singing your praises. Where do you see your production company going from here? Do you hope to tell more queer and trans stories?
Elliot Page: Yes, of course. We currently have a slate with queer, trans and other stories. Ultimately, we hope to uplift incredibly talented people and invest in storytellers. You don’t always get that space or platform in this business, so that’s [currently] our goal.
How was the experience working with Elliot Page on Close To You?
Hillary Baack: Wonderful! We are friends and we have worked together before. But getting together to really fall into this story was just a joy. I feel very honored to be opposite him in such an important form. It truly was an honor.
Can you tell me a little about your character, Katherine?
Hillary Baack: She’s an old friend of Sam’s from high school and they haven’t seen each other in many, many years. I feel that they had loved each other and maybe they were “The one that got away” for one another. They meet each other again and discover that they both feel that love again. They feel seen with each other. Katherin is now married with children and life has moved. It gets complicated and there’s a lot going on. But it was really an honour to get to work with him again.
During the Q&A after the film, Dominic Savage, Elliot Page, and Hillary Baack stood on stage to answer questions from a TIFF moderator. When the moderator asked Savage about his approach to improvisation as a way of storytelling, he remarked:
Dominic Savage: We talked about many things, and I think in the end, what emerged from this time that we spent together making the film is what you see. I think we sort of allowed things to happen with it, which is a lovely way of working to be honest. We knew that those ideas and themes would come through, but in the end, we were being very simple about what we were doing. It’s a story about going home and reflecting on someone that you loved many years ago. Ideas and themes and emotional complexities emerge, which I’m so proud of.
When asked about Sam and Katherine’s relationship and working together as actors, Page chimed in:
Elliot Page: I think so much it has to do with their connection. We are coming into this knowing each other for a long time and have been wanting to find something to do together. Then this came up which obviously was a dream to get to do this with Hillary and I think to be honest, I just think Hillary’s so goddamn talented! So extraordinary and natural, generous and just like easy to work with. I think we just were leaning into our love for each other, or care for each other and these characters who really saw one another and really cherish one another for who they are.
An audience member asked Page about the themes of family and identity from the film, largely based on the idea of leaving one’s small town to move to a big city. Page replied:
Elliot Page: What’s interesting about working in this process is at the beginning, the themes emerge as you make it. You pivot scenes and pivot story, and when we first talked about this idea, it was mostly about meeting someone from your past and an initial spark that interested us. Then it turned into going home to the family and what have you and that journey, the complexities and the sort of nuanced elements of those relationships with family and returning home. Grief I think is a big part of it, too. All things that ended up being a big part of the story and the themes that emerged. Which did feel important, but because this film is made in such a different way, they really do sort of emerge as you’re making it which…was really fascinating.