There’s an Emmy for Orphan Black in her recent past and a movie with Jake Gyllenhaal (called Stronger) in her immediate future.
Right now, Tatiana Maslany stars with Dane DeHaan in the drama, Two Lovers and a Bear, opening in theatres Friday.
Both actors were at the Toronto International Film Festival to promote their movie, which is the new feature from Oscar-nominated director Kim Nguyen (War Witch). Maslany, 31, and DeHaan, 30, play fragile characters struggling to overcome various personal demons; the story is set in Nunavut, where the Arctic wilderness is a pristine setting for a volatile relationship.
The lovers take a trip together into uncharted — literally and figuratively — terrain, as they face an uncertain future, but discover the past isn’t quite ready to let them go. Two Lovers and a Bear is painfully real but touched with magic: it does involve a polar bear who speaks with Gordon Pinsent’s voice.
“It read to me like an adult fairy tale, says DeHaan. “Their relationship and what was happening all rang true, but then it had these fantastical elements as well. I trusted Kim to pull it off, because of War Witch, and the way he deals with the fantastical elements in that. I think that’s one of his strengths as a director.”
DeHaan says he first met Nguyen at TIFF a few years ago, when the actor was at the festival promoting The Place Beyond the Pines.
The two became fast friends and decided they wanted to work together.
“I’m just a fan of his. I really jumped at the opportunity to make this movie.”
This movie, mind you, is emotionally raw and was filmed in the wilds around Iqaluit.
It was tough to make. And even tougher to talk about, says Maslany.
“It’s odd, reflecting back on an experience that’s so, almost etherial, so in the moment,” she says.
“With a film like this, there’s so little intellectual research done. It’s like, living in that environment, with the people who live there, and daily life just starts to seep into you. And to talk about it afterwards is like a weird packaging of a really complicated experience … It’s one thing when you’re filming it. Every moment is different when you’re filming it. Just being in that space — you’re not intellectualizing anything. It’s very much from your body.
“But it’s always odd to talk about acting.”
One of the things DeHaan and Maslany have in common is that both have been actors since childhood. DeHaan says he began by playing superheroes in his backyard in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he grew up. “I was in community theatre and things like that when I was a kid,” he says. “I’ve only been doing it professionally since I got out of college, so, like, eight years or something.” DeHaan graduated from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, making his film debut in 2010 in John Sayles’ Amigo and winning notice in the HBO series, In Treatment. His many films include Lawless, Kill Your Darlings, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Life and he stars in the upcoming films A Cure for Wellness, Tulip Fever and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (which co-stars Cara Delevingne and is directed by Luc Besson).
“I always wanted to act,” he says. “I just didn’t do it professionally until I had to, I guess.”
Maslany started acting at age nine in community theatre. In high school, the Regina native was both appearing in school productions and taking small film and TV jobs; she has several TV series on her resume, such as 2030 CE, Instant Star, Heartland and Being Erica, and has appeared in the films Eastern Promises, Violet & Daisy, The Vow and Woman in Gold, among many others.
About three years ago Maslany starred in the movies Picture Day and Cas and Dylan to critical acclaim, just around the same time that TV’s Orphan Black gave her an international audience.
The Emmy she just won for playing multiple characters on that show has added to a level of celebrity Maslany is still figuring out.
“Nothing of this other side of things ever occurred to me,” she says. “It’s odd, because it’s only with Orphan Black that any of that has come into play.”
Spoken like a Canadian 20-year vet of the profession …
“My work is totally opposite to this other beast, this machine, which you kind of have to be good at, and know how to navigate. And it has nothing to do with what I do,” she says cheerfully.
“It’s a weird byproduct that really doesn’t compute.”