January 22, 2010
Cdn. Maslany getting Sundance buzz

Actress Tatiana Maslany, who grew up in Saskatchewan but now lives in Toronto, is already earning buzz at the Sundance Film Festival for her starring role in "Grown Up Movie Star."

PARK CITY, Utah — In Hollywood, you’re only nobody until you’re the next somebody.

Just ask Canadian Tatiana Maslany, whose Sundance debut is earning ecstatic — if daunting — comparisons to some now-famous festival alumni.

“She’s a major talent,” raves Sundance director John Cooper. “I’d never heard of her before and watching her, it’s kind of amazing. It’s like Ellen Page (in Hard Candy) or Carey Mulligan in An Education. She just popped onto the scene, and you think, ‘Wow.’ ”

Told this, the 24-year-old Maslany, who moved from Regina to Toronto three years ago, is elated. And disbelieving. “Really? That’s insane. I can’t even imagine that. Those girls are phenomenal ... Ellen Page is so uniquely herself and so is Carey Mulligan. In Hollywood, there’s always pressure to be a certain way. But not all girls fit into a mould.”

Nor do all films. Grown Up Movie Star from first-time director Adriana Maggs stars Maslany as Ruby, a Newfoundland adolescent abandoned by her mother, who discovers her ex-hockey player father (Shawn Doyle of TV’s Big Love) is gay.

For Sundance, which has announced a return to its low-glam roots as a beacon of fresh cinematic talent, Grown Up Movie Star is an ideal fit. “I’m a huge Robert Redford fan,” Maslany says. “Just to know that this is his baby, I love the idea of being part of it.”

It wasn’t long ago that Maggs, a television writer and producer, was left wondering if anyone would even see her movie after it was rejected by the Toronto International Film Festival last year.

“I thought no one would see it after that. It was scary,” says the Newfoundland-born filmmaker. “I wouldn’t be talking to you if it wasn’t for this. Being a selection at Sundance is the best possible thing.”

Especially in the wake of effusive critical praise for Maslany.

Maggs acknowledges she had doubts about whether the actress, best recognized from such CBC series as Heartland, was too old for the role, but auditioned her anyway on Doyle’s recommendation.

“He had worked with her and just adored her. She was unbelievable. She’s just amazing.”

As far as Maslany was concerned, the external transformation into a teenager was, in fact, the simple part. “I’ve always played younger. I don’t look my age. For me, it’s opening up a side of playfulness and innocence. Ruby is so different from me. It’s about going back to those places when you’re learning everything, and keeping that openness.”

The question now for both Maslany and Maggs is whether the Sundance buzz will translate into larger audiences when the film opens next Friday in Toronto, and in other Canadian markets later on.

Maslany thinks so. Canada, after all, has an unfortunate history of ignoring its own artists until they’re lauded in the U.S.

“We seem to struggle within our community to take pride in what we do. There are a lot of amazing films that don’t get seen. We need to support our stuff.”