She’s the girl on Robert Pattinson’s arm, after spending months clinging to the right side of Michael Fassbender, and she’s been the favourite of A-list directors David Cronenberg and Ridley Scott, but she still remains relatively unknown.
Canadian actress Sarah Gadon has indisputably hit a stroke of luck in a time when movies aren’t being made and the good ones are few and far between. Despite being suddenly cast into the VIP section of cinema, she’s surprisingly humble, smart about her roles, and excited about whatever ventures lie in her future.
The 21-year-old has a background in dance, spending her youth training as a Junior Associate at the National Ballet School of Canada and as a student at Claude Watson School for the Performing Arts. She took on her first major adult role in A Dangerous Method playing Emma Jung alongside Fassbender, Keira Knightley and Viggo Mortensen. She simultaneously starred in Mary Harron’s Moth Diaries. To boot, she has also already completed Cronenberg’s Don DeLillo novel-adapted film Cosmopolis, in which she plays Robert Pattinson’s wife, to be released next year, as well as the Ridley Scott-produced mini-series World without End in Hungary.
Her earnestness may make her seem green to those that meet her, but the actress is hard working and shows a glint of business savvy. Are we a fool for loving her? Either way, we’ll likely be seeing more of her. FILLER took a moment to catch up with her during the Venice Film Festival to talk Cronenberg, success, and where she thinks she’s headed.
What is it, you seem distracted?
It’s really awkward that this person is taking photographs right now, it’s like we should be pretend-working or something.
Yeah, look busy! So, how’s the festival been?
It’s my first European festival and it sounds so corny when I say it, but magical? But it kind of is. I was actually just working on a mini-series in Budapest, so I flew straight from Budapest. So I’m all acclimatized. But I’m just such a huge fan of cinema. And I love the roots of this festival, and to be in Venice with a Cronenberg film …
You have two films here, right?
Yeah, I do. I have a Cronenberg film and a Mary Harron film.
Have you seen Mary Harron’s yet?
I haven’t seen it yet … Yeah, so that’s a little nerve racking.
How was it shooting that film, and how does that compare to this role, which is a bit more mature?
I think with my role, Emma Jung in A Dangerous Method, there is a maturity, but also it kind of gets confused with how I think Swiss Germans suppressed their own emotions. And it was a completely different time, and a completely different consciousness. And she came from a very kind of wealthy Swiss-German background. And there is definitely a reservation there that was inherent at any kind of age. My character does age throughout the film, so you do get to see that kind of an arc, which is interesting because I shot that film before I shot Mary Harron’s film. And in Mary’s film I play a 16-year-old American girl in a boarding school, so it’s a bit of a switch.
Was this the first role that you play an adult?
Yeah, I mean I would definitely say that this is a step into more of the adult.
How was it working with the cast?
How was it? It was terrifying. I cast this role off of tape. I made a tape in Toronto and I sent it and David cast me. He flew me to Germany. I hadn’t met anyone until our camera tests a few days before we actually started shooting. I was so terrified that I was going to show up and the rest of the cast who are amazing, established actors would look at me and think, “Who are you?” So I was terrified, but I think it really forced me to grow up and become independent really quickly. And I learned so much being surrounded by Viggo, Michael and Keira. They are so established and they are very dedicated to their craft. And it was just a huge learning experience for me. And I loved it.
A Dangerous Mind deals with a lot of dense psychological subject matter. Did you know much about this kind of stuff before you shot?
Yeah, I did, I actually knew a lot about the world of psychoanalysis, because my father is a psychologist. So I grew up with that, and I grew up with names like Jung and Freud floating around our dinner table from a very young age. So it was very kind of comfortable subject matter for me. And then I studied it in school as well. I took psychology in university, the University of Toronto, I still go there part-time. But of course I’ve actually seen a Jungian psychoanalyst. And then I did a lot of reading, I did a lot of reading on Emma to learn about the character. And then of course I also kind of knew that relationship dynamic between a woman dating a psychologist. You know, maybe not the infidelity part, but definitely the whole dynamic of being married to a doctor.
Emma did a lot of psychoanalysis as well.
Yeah, she did. And it was later in her life. I mean the film takes place before any of that as well. So you do see a kind of younger side of their marriage. And a younger side of that character, that person.
How was it working with David?
You know, it was amazing. I think David gives his actors a kind of freedom and independence that I’ve never experienced before working with another director. And of course with that freedom comes a lot of responsibility. And you want to come to the table with something that is going to be compelling and that he’s going to find compelling so there is a lot of pressure in it that way. But I think he creates a working environment that is at total ease and everyone is so well informed and it feels comfortable and feels like they are working on a film with a great director. So really, it’s the most ideal situation to be in. And having worked with him twice now, because after A Dangerous Method, at the beginning of this year, I did his latest film, Cosmopolis, it was just even easier. He’s a really inspiring person to be around because he’s an intellect and he’s a passionate artist and just to hear him talk and promote the film and to discuss his work after having seen it, is just inspiring, too, on a whole new level.
In Cosmopolis, what kind of role do you play?
I play Robert Pattinson’s wife.
You’ve had some pretty favourable casting.
Yes, I have. I have good marital relationships. But she has this kind of cat-and-mouse game going on throughout the whole film so she’s a little more sexy and not as reserved as Emma, and she’s an American. So I have kind of a New England accent in that film.
How was that?
I loved it, it was great. It was so great to switch gears and play. When I did Cosmopolis we were doing our camera tests, because he had offered me the part and I didn’t have to audition for it, which is the whole other terrifying territory. He came up to me and he said, “So you ready to play a modern woman?” and I said, “Yeah, yeah I’m ready,” because it’s a contemporary film. And I said, “So do you want to discuss the character and the choices that I’ve made for this character?” and he’s like, “No, it’s all there,” and he just pointed at the script. That was a bit overwhelming.
Are you kind of like his latest muse?
I would NOT refer to myself as that, but others might. I would consider myself the luckiest Canadian actress right now, that’s for sure.
Do you want to do more Canadian stuff?
Yeah. I mean, I love film and I love great projects and great stories and it doesn’t necessarily matter to me who’s telling them, the nationality of the person who is telling them. But I think doing Canadian work is really important in the sense that I think it’s important that we feed and inspire and encourage our own cinematic industry within the landscape of our country.
So what do you have coming up?
Well … I just finished Cosmopolis, [and] I did a miniseries called World Without End produced by Ridley Scott that I was shooting in Budapest. [Then] I flew straight here, and now I’m going to exhale and figure out what’s next.