Sarah Polley Biography
Date of Birth: January 8, 1979
Sarah Polley is an actress and director renowned in her native Canada for her political activism. Blessed with an extremely expressive face that enables directors to minimize dialogue due to her uncanny ability to suggest a character’s thoughts, Polley has become a favorite of critics for her sensitive portraits of wounded and conflicted young women in independent films.
Sarah Polley Info
She was born into a show business family: her father, Michael Polley, appeared with her in the movie The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) and on the television series “Road to Avonlea” (1989) and her mother, Diane Polley, was an actress and casting director. It was her mother’s connections that launched Sarah, at her own insistence, on an acting career at the age of four, following in the footsteps of her older brother Mark Polley (a second brother, John Buchan, is a casting director and producer).
Her career as a child actress shifted into high gear when she was cast as the Cockney waif Jody Turner in Lantern Hill (1990) (TV), for which she won a Gemini Award, the Canadian equivalent of the Emmy, in 1992. Produced by Kevin Sullivan, the film was based on the book by Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of “Anne of the Green Gables”. When Sullivan created a television series based on Montgomery’s work, he cast Polley in the lead role of Sara Stanley in “Road to Avonlea” (1989). The series propelled Polley into the first rank of Canadian TV stars and made her independently wealthy by the age of 14.
Her personal life was deeply affected by the death of her mother Diane from cancer shortly after her 11th birthday, a development that ironically paralleled the fictional life of her character Sara. Highly intelligent and politically progressive at a young age, Polley eventually rebelled against what she felt was the Americanization of the series after it was picked up by the Disney Channel for distribution in the U.S. She eventually dropped out of the show. Though she does not blame her parents, she remains publicly disenchanted over the loss of her childhood and, in October 2003, said she is working on a script about a 12-year old girl on a TV show.
Polley, who picked up a second Gemini Award for her performance in the TV series “Straight Up” (1996), subsequently quit acting and high school to turn her attention to politics, positioning herself on the extreme left of Canada’s left-of-center New Democratic Party. The publicity ensuing from her losing some teeth after being slugged by an Ontario policeman during a protest against the Conservative provincial government, plus the stinging cynicism from some other activists unimpressed by her “celebrity”, led her to temporarily lower her political profile and return to acting in Atom Egoyan’s film The Sweet Hereafter (1997). It was her appearance as Nicole, the teenage girl injured in a school bus accident who serves as the conscience of the small town rent by the tragedy, that first brought her to the attention of critics in the U.S. In Canada, the role was heralded by critics as her successful breakthrough to adult roles. It was her second film with Egoyan, who wrote the part with her in mind when he adapted Russell Banks’ novel. Predictions of an Academy Award nomination and future stardom were part of the critical consensus, and she received her first Best Actress Genie nomination from Canada’s Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television and the Best Supporting Actress award from the Boston Society of Film Critics. The buzz created at the Sundance Festival, where her starring role in the film Guinevere (1999) was showcased, when the entertainment media crowned her the “It Girl” of 1999. Intensely private, and extremely ambivalent about the personal cost of celebrity and the Hollywood ethos “Fame is the Name of the Game”, Polley could be seen as rebelling against the expectations of mainstream cinema when she embarked on a career path that took her out of the spotlight thrown by the harsh lights of the Hollywood hype/publicity machine after shooting the film Go (1999). She dropped out of Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous (2000), the $60-million mega-hyped vehicle that was supposed to make her a mainstream star in the U.S., choosing to return to Canada to make the $1.5 million The Law of Enclosures (2000) for Genie Award-winner John Greyson, a director she greatly admires. The film grossed poorly in Canada and was not released in the U.S., but it did garner Polley her second Genie nomination for Best Actress. While her replacement in Almost Famous (2000) went on to win an Oscar nomination and a career above the title in glossy Hollywood films, she took a wide variety of parts, large and small, in independent films, including significant roles in the ensemble pieces The Claim (2000) and The Weight of Water (2000), bit parts in eXistenZ (1999) and _Love Come Down’ (2000)_ , and the lead in No Such Thing (2001). Her choice of projects showed her to be a questing spirit more focused on learning the art of her craft than on stardom.