A little less than a decade ago, two unsuspecting actors from Canada quietly garnered international acclaim via two intense roles in two much-talked-about indie flicks. For Molly Parker (right), fame came by way of playing a necrophiliac in Kissed—a film based on Barbara Gowdy’s short story about a woman who gets sexually charged by corpses, which, in our books, should have gotten her an Oscar since: a) how creepy is that?; and b) her leading man was pretty stiff. For Sarah Polley (next page), her tour-de-ferocity was personifying a young girl left in a wheelchair after a tragic bus accident (inspired by a true story) in director Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter. Close to a decade later, Molly and Polley—collectively starring in more than 70 features (separately)—are still discovering that they have more than just their Canuck roots in common.
Recently, they have both wrapped their latest labours of love with the ones they love the most. Toronto-born Polley’s feature-film directorial debut—a film titled Away from Her (which, incidentally, she also wrote)—will be opening at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The film is based on a story written by her favourite writer, Alice Munro, and stars what Polley calls her dream cast: Julie Christie, Olympia Dukakis and Gordon Pinsent.
Polley felt poised to bring Munro’s take on love to the big screen because of how affected she was after reading it. “It’s a very realistic portrait of a romance,” she explains. “What I find beautiful is when I see couples in their 60s and 70s who still clearly have some kind of connection and chemistry. I think that’s what’s amazing.” To add fuel to the fire, her real-life husband, David Wharnsby, is editing the feature. “It’s a really interesting process,” she laughs. “Basically, every day we’re in a darkroom together talking about a film that’s about a marriage. It’s like intensive couples’ therapy—it’s hilarious!”
Parker can relate to mixing work with pleasure. The Maple Ridge, B.C., native is starring in Who Loves the Sun, written and directed by her husband of 14 years, director Matt Bissonnette. The film, which launches in January, deals with a love triangle that develops when Parker’s character’s husband returns home after a mysterious five-year absence. “Because we’re together,” she says, “I have read several drafts over the years and I’ve seen the whole thing come together, so by the time we started shooting, I’d already lived it out.” Becoming pros at the whole collaboration thing was easy and started when Parker served as a producer on Bissonnette’s acclaimed film of 2002, Looking for Leonard.
But wearing many hats and combining their relationships on and off the set is not all these remarkable women have in common—they both have plans to hit up Hollywood yet again. Parker—who has starred in films alongside Christian Slater, John Cusack and Sandra Oh, as well as been a regular on HBO’s Deadwood and guested on Six Feet Under—is starring in The Wicker Man with Nicolas Cage and Hollywoodland with Adrien Brody, Ben Affleck and Diane Lane. Polley is also back in the actor’s seat, starring alongside Tim Robbins in The Secret Life of Words.
However, for all of the commonalities in their careers, these two, strangely, have never shared camera time together (aside from FLARE’s photo shoot). Parker sums up the event pitch-perfectly: “It’s a complete cliché, but I feel like Sarah and I are ships passing in the night. We’ve never worked together, but we’ve worked with loads of the same filmmakers.” It must be kismet.