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Dark Age

Sundance darlings Catherine Keener and Ellen Page are back this year, playing a mother of six and a teenage girl left in her care, respectively, in the gritty in-competition drama "An American Crime."

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PARK CITY, Utah — Sundance darlings Catherine Keener and Ellen Page are back this year, playing a mother of six and a teenage girl left in her care, respectively, in the gritty in-competition drama "An American Crime." The film recounts the horrifying true story of a 1965 murder and child abuse trial. Given the subject matter, the actresses' moods were a bit downbeat during interviews, but it was clear they shared a mutual respect, as well as a few laughs, during the grueling four-week shoot and the Sundance swirl.

WWD: You said initially that you didn't want to do this movie. What changed your mind?
Catherine Keener: I think the story. Her (Gertrude Baniszewski's) story should be told. And I thought the script was really good. And Ellen's participation, certainly. I was really happy that we got to work together.
Ellen Page: When I read the script, I couldn't believe it was a true story. It just broke my heart and I also felt like it was a story that needed to be told. I also wanted to work with her (pointing to Keener) because she's Catherine Keener.

WWD: Since this was the kind of tough role that stays with you, what was the first thing you did when the movie wrapped?
C.K.: I remember rushing to the spa (laughs). It sounds so lame, but I did actually ask for one of those salt scrubs and I wanted her to scrape a layer of skin off. It was literal for me.
E.P.: It did stick with me for a bit, I think more than any movie ever has. I ran away to Nova Scotia and I rode my bike and swam in the lakes.

WWD: What about the director's comments that you took the role so far that you stopped eating for a while?
E.P.: I don't like when he tells that story. Sylvia (Likens, her character) was starved, and when you shoot stuff like that and they are like, "Lets break for lunch," you are not like, "I'll take the grilled mahi-mahi and a side of wasabi mashed potatoes." I just do whatever feels right for any movie.
C.K.: We all did what we needed to do; like, I was on Vicodin. I'm kidding!
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