LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A few years ago, actress Sarah Polley became a bonafide filmmaker, walking Oscars’ red carpet with her 2006 directing debut “Away From Her,” which earned her a best adapted screenplay nomination.
With that kind of success, one might think the former child star, now 31 years-old, would give up life in front of the camera and take a permanent seat in a director’s chair, but Polley has a mind of her own. She wants both.
On Friday, she stars in sci-fi horror thriller “Splice,” portraying a scientist in a human engineering experiment run amok. It is her first major movie acting role since the success of low-budget Alzheimer’s drama “Away From Her.” And working on the film was a chance for Polley to take a break and follow someone else’s lead, she said, before returning to directing.
“It was great to abdicate control over everything,” she told Reuters in a recent interview.
In “Splice,” Polley takes the part of Elsa, who teams with another scientist, played by Adrien Brody, to splice human DNA and create a being that is both human and beast.
Dren possesses some human features but also has hoofs and a tail, and as the movie unfolds, Dren grows other appendages and shows abilities that inevitably lead to big trouble.
The scientists’ dream of creating a superhuman being, as represented by Dren, slowly becomes a nightmare and they have to either contain it or kill it.
“The film explores what would happen if science was totally unregulated and two people could go into a back room and do whatever they wanted,” Polley said. “Elsa is almost insane with her vision and ambition, and I‘m not like that at all. To play someone who is driven like that was fascinating. She’s probably the most interesting character I have ever played as a woman.”
Polley began acting in her hometown Toronto, Canada, at the tender age of four. She first appeared in Disney film “One Magic Christmas” and quickly moved on to more prominent roles in films like “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” and the television series “Road to Avonlea.”
Throughout her career, she’s worked consistently in both Canadian and U.S. films including Atom Egoyan’s “The Sweet Hereafter,” Doug Liman’s “Go” and the 2004 remake of “Dawn of the Dead.”
Though women directors have always been few and far between in Hollywood, Polley knew she wanted to eventually direct. At age 21, she had just finished her first short film when she was cast to star in Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Weight of Water.”
“We had a lot of great conversations about what it meant to be a female filmmaker,” recalled Polley. “She gave a lot of advice, was hugely supportive and showed such an active interest in my work. She took the idea of mentorship seriously, which was great for me.”
Bigelow, of course, won the most recent Academy Award for directing Iraq war movie, “The Hurt Locker,” and Polley is no stranger to critical success with “Away From Her,” in which a man watches his wife slip away due to Alzheimer‘s.
While she lost the adapted screenplay Oscar to Joel and Ethan Coen and “No Country for Old Men,” Polley made Canadian history when she was the first woman to win a Genie (Canada’s equivalent of the Oscars) for directing “Away From Her.”
Though she acknowledges, “symbols are always helpful and good for the next generation of female filmmakers,” Polley said awards are not something she ever focused on.
“I‘m not ambitious in an overall sense, nor do I feel the need to achieve things,” she said. “I guess I feel like you can’t ultimately control a career, so why try.”
But movies are another matter.
This July, Polley begins shooting her follow-up directorial feature, “Take This Waltz,” starring Seth Rogen, Michelle Williams, Sarah Silverman and Luke Kirby. She also wrote the script about what happens when the honeymoon period of a new relationship is over.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Jill Serjeant