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Sarah Polley Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (2) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trivia (39) | Personal Quotes (29)

Overview (2)

Date of Birth 8 January 1979Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Height 5' 2" (1.57 m)

Mini Bio (1)

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 dialog 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.

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 Avonlea (1990); 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 (1989), 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 Green Gables (1985). When Sullivan created a television series based on Montgomery's work, he cast Polley in the lead role of Sara Stanley in Avonlea (1990). 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 US, eventually dropping 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 lower her political profile temporarily 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 US. 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 the novel by Russell Banks, who, ironically, is American. 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. It was 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 US$60 million mega-hyped vehicle that was supposed to make her a mainstream star in the US, choosing to return to Canada to make the CDN$1.5 million The Law of Enclosures (2000) for Genie Award-winner John Greyson, a director she admires greatly. The film grossed poorly in Canada and was not released in the US, 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.

She has said that her choice of film roles, eschewing mainstream Hollywood movies for chancier, non-commercial independent fare, was the result of an ethical decision on her part to make films with social importance. A less-observant viewer might think that the rebel Polley played in her political life that had previously manifested itself in her profession was now driving her to the verge of career suicide in terms of popularity, marketability, and choice of future roles. However, that interpretation does not recognize the extraordinary talent that will always keep her in demand by directors, if not casting agents, with an eye on the opening weekend box office. One must understand Polley's career progression in light of her attendance at the Canadian Film Centre's directors program and her production of short films, including Don't Think Twice (1999) and the highly praised I Shout Love (2001). Polley is a cinema artist. This woman wants to make, and will make films. Thus, we can understand her career choices as a desire to work with and understand the technique of some of the best directors in film, including David Cronenberg, Michael Winterbottom, and Hal Hartley.

Polley is as renowned for her intelligence as for her remarkable talent. The problem of the intelligent person in the acting field is that the actor, as artist, in not ultimately in control of their medium, and it is artistic control that is the hallmark of the great artist. The controlling intelligence on a movie set is the director, and her attendance at the Canadian Film Centre has given her a new perspective on acting. The actor, she says, should not try to give a complete performance for the camera (that is, control the representation on film) but must remember that the function of the actor is to give the director as much coverage as possible as a film, as well as a performance, is made in the editing room. According to Polley, this realization, that the film actor exists to serve the director, has given her new enthusiasm for acting. Thus, her career, and her career choices, can be seen as a quest for knowledge about the art of cinema, a journey whose fruition we will see in her future feature work as both actor and director.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Spouse (2)

David Sandomierski (23 August 2011 - present) (1 child)
David Wharnsby (10 September 2003 - 2008) (divorced)

Trivia (39)

The youngest of five children. Both parents, Michael Polley and Diane Polley, were actors and she had her first audition at age 5. She debuted in films at age 6 with One Magic Christmas (1985).
Dropped out of high school to become a political activist for Socialist groups. Was attacked by police at a political protest at Queens Park in 1995.
In 1994 had surgery to correct scoliosis.
Mother died when she was 11.
Lost some back teeth at a rally, in a violent clash between police and protesters.
When she was 12, during the first Gulf war, she attended a children's awards show in Washington, DC, and was seated at a table with some representatives from the Walt Disney Company. They asked her to remove a peace symbol that she was wearing but she refused. Disney has blacklisted her ever since.
Was originally cast as Penny Lane in Almost Famous (2000). When she dropped out of the film because she did not feel comfortable with the role, writer-director Cameron Crowe considered canceling the film.
Attending the Canadian Film Centre's director's program.
Appointed to transition advisory group by new Toronto mayor David Miller
Appeared on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn (1999) on the 15th of March 2004 to promote the film Dawn of the Dead (2004). She stated that it was her first appearance on an American late-night talk show.
Names White Zombie (1932) and George A. Romero's Living Dead films as her favorite zombie movies.
Atom Egoyan, who directed her in Exotica (1994) and The Sweet Hereafter (1997), originally considered casting Polley as the character Felicia in Felicia's Journey (1999). After talking it over with her, they jointly decided that she should not take the role as her intelligence and awareness were antithetical to the character, who remains quite unconscious of other characters' motivations.
Her father, Michael Polley, said of his famously independent daughter in 1997, "She was at her best when she was out of kilter with society in some way."
Both Sarah and her first husband, David Wharnsby, won 2004 Genie Awards, she for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for My Life Without Me (2003), and he for Outstanding Achievement in Editing for The Saddest Music in the World (2003).
One of five children, her birth came eight years after that of her youngest sibling, when her parents were in their mid-forties.
In November 2005, it was announced that the Harold Greenberg Fund was financially backing 24 film scripts in development, including one by Polley. She is adapting the Alice Munro short story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain", which has been optioned by Pulling Focus Pictures. Rechristened Away from Her (2006), the story is about a faithful husband married to a woman who, afflicted by Alzheimer's disease, unknowingly betrays him.
Provided vocals on two tracks for The Sweet Hereafter (1997) soundtrack. The Tragically Hip's "Courage" and Jane Siberry's "One More Colour".
On February 24, 2006, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists awarded her the Award of Excellence for a critically acclaimed career at the 2006 ACTRA Toronto Awards. ACTRA's Toronto chapter, the union's largest, has approximately 21,000 members.
Has worked with the legendary actress Julie Christie three times: Polley co-starred with her in No Such Thing (2001) and the Goya Award-winning "La Vida secreta de las palabras" (The Secret Life of Words (2005)), and Christie is playing the lead in Polley's first feature film as a director, Away from Her (2006). Polley is impressed by not only with Christie's talent, but praises her intelligence and independence. After appearing with her in No Such Thing (2001), Polley -- who lost her mother when she was 11 years old -- said that Christie had become one of her surrogate mothers.
She had intended her feature film debut to be "Itchy", based on a script she wrote about a 12-year-old actress starring on a television series. However, she was unable to get the project green-lighted, and turned to another property she had, an adaptation of one of her favorite short stories, Alice Munro's "The Bear Came Over the Mountain". The story, which deals with a couple dealing with the wife's Alzheimer's disease, appealed to her as her own grandmother had suffered from the affliction.
Was chosen by Variety as one of "10 Directors to Watch" (January 2007).
Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007.
Was member of the dramatic jury at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007.
Has lived on her own since she was fourteen years old.
Was presented with the Dallas Star Award at the 2007 AFI Dallas Film Festival.
Dec. 2007 - Ranked 49 on EW's The 50 Smartest People in Hollywood.
Served on the mayor of Toronto's transition team in 2003.
Was offered the female lead in the film The Bourne Identity (2002) but declined the part.
Member of jury at the Mar del Plata International Film Festival in 2008.
Ex-daughter-in-law of Marnie Wharnsby and Bill Wharnsby.
Ex-sister-in-law of Tim Wharnsby.
Recently revealed that she was conceived during an extramarital affair conducted by her mother Diane Polley and that Michael Polley is not her biological father. The revelation of this is at the core of her new documentary film Stories We Tell (2012).
Actress Rebecca Jenkins, who plays Polley's mother in Stories We Tell (2012), was a good friend of Polley's mother.
Gave birth to her 1st child at age 33, a daughter Eve Sandomierski on February 7, 2012. Child's father is her 2nd husband, David Sandomierski.
Directed one Oscar nominated performance: Julie Christie in Away from Her (2006).
Sister of Mark Polley and Joanna Polley.
Younger half-sister of John Buchan. They share the same mother, Diane Polley.
She visited Argentina to be part of the member of jury in Mar del Plata International Film Festival 2008. [November 2008]
On her mother's side, Sarah has Scottish and Northern Irish ancestry. Sarah's biological father, Harry Gulkin, is the son of Russian Jewish immigrants.

Personal Quotes (29)

It is important to me to stay in Canada. I used to think it was because I thought it was important to build up an indigenous film industry - but now I realise I'm incapable of living anywhere else. I'm a real homebody.
"I was pretty uninterested in acting until I was about 17. I wanted to go to university and never think about acting again. I'd been very politically involved for a couple of years and I wanted a break, so I did The Sweet Hereafter (1997) in 1997. But I ended up completely falling in love with acting".
I always think it's a bit of a joke when I get described as an activist. Really, for two or three months of my year I organise stuff, but I'm not as involved as I used to be.
I started acting when I was four. My first experience on a film set was in dead of winter. Now I realise that almost every film I've ever been in is like that. It was the beginning of a long career of incredibly cold, sparse, barren landscapes.
The guy who taught me to use the shotgun was a complete gun nut. I asked, 'Is the safety on when it's to the right or off when it's to the right?' And he said, 'The way I like to remember it is right is safe, like the government, and left is unsafe, like the people we are shooting at.' And I'm thinking, 'I'm in a room with my worst nightmare who's teaching me how to shoot a shotgun. How did this happen to me?'
I missed out on a traditional childhood but I had something else that got me to what I am doing today. I can't say I regret it but I certainly wouldn't let my child act at an early age.
On her film Dawn of the Dead (2004) going up against Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (2004) head-to-head at the box office: "They've got only one guy who comes back from the dead. We've got millions".
It takes terrible things to live well.
{On her marriage to David Wharnsby} "My relationship is the thing I'm proudest of in my life. I had a lot of opportunities to end up in some pretty bad situations and, despite all my faults, I had the sense to find someone like him and make the decision to be with him. You spend a lot of time wanting to be with the wrong person and I just feel incredibly lucky because I've succeeding at that one thing. I figured that out".
[on filming The Sweet Hereafter (1997)] "I was so young then, 18. I'm really comfortable in sadness so I don't get depressed doing stuff like that. I actually find it invigorating. It was an amazing experience. Atom Egoyan is a filmmaker who I really respect and I felt like I had his trust".
If you have the opportunity to do things which have some meaning I don't know why you would choose to do other things. I understand that many people don't have that opportunity but I do right now so I'm happy to hold out for the films which have something to contribute.
"I think you have to keep your distance from mainstream Hollywood in order to be a normal human being. I mean, I work there, and I like being there, but I love having an anonymous life. I think there's definitely such a thing as being too famous.
The reason why I stayed in Canada had everything to do with the kind of films we used to make before the commercial mandate came in effect at Telefilm. They were films that asserted an independent vision of the world. They weren't just cheap versions of American genre films...but movies that spoke to the human condition. Now, I'm beginning to wonder why I stayed and if it was a huge mistake.
[on herself and other Canadian actors & filmmakers, such as director-actor-writer Don McKellar, who stayed in Canada rather than go Hollywood and make movies in the U.S.] "If Canadian films don't have a purpose, then what are we still doing here? We're beginning to freak out a little. Why make a commitment with so little reward? The Canadian films out there have been so weak, it's been kind of depressing".
[on movie critics] "There are a few who are not nice and they say things that are harsh...but they always help me to become a better actor."
It was the opposite kind of love than we usually celebrate in films, which is new love without knowledge and without hardship. It's the whole idea of love after life has had its way with you, and after you have kind of failed each other and things have gone off the rails. Yet love still somehow exists between them" - 2007 AP interview on Away from Her (2006).
That's something I find is really missing in films that portray love between people in their 60s or 70s. It generally lacks chemistry, like somehow that's all died away, and that's just not my experience of people in their 60s and 70s, that that whole part of yourself disappears somehow. It's a really pessimistic and inaccurate attitude that a lot of films have had, so it was really important for me to have that vibrancy between them, because I've seen it in relationships that have lasted that long. And I haven't seen it very often in films" - 2007 AP interview on Away from Her (2006).
[on being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Away from Her (2006)] I'm in total disbelief. I'm thrilled but kind of in shock too. It's been such a strange year and I'm bowled over by the life of the film. It's more than I could have ever hoped. This now adds a very surreal element to it.
I think that what a lot of first-time filmmakers don't realize is that they are the least experienced person on that set. Everybody else has been doing their job for years, so the whole act of playing the filmmaker, playing the person in command, is a charade.
I think it takes a lot of focus and determination to stay in a relationship with film and acting that's productive and stimulating. Acting can be the most shallow, vapid things you can do with your life, but it can also be one of the most profound experiences in the world. Even my experience acting as a child is something I'm very ambiguous about. I'm not sure it was the best way for me to spend my time. But at the same time, I probably wouldn't be where I am now without it. And I'm very happy with where I am now.
[on Take This Waltz (2011)] Seth Rogen is the easiest person to get along with on the planet. He's also the only one I had in mind when I was writing. He has a depth and a goodness to him that shines through in every role.
I don't think we are prepared culturally for the idea that, once the 'happily ever after' happens, there are a lot of complications and sometimes boredom and all kinds of other things. That's not to say everyone should just stay in a long-term relationship. Certainly that's not the case. But I do feel we are ill-equipped when that first flame of passion dwindles.
I'm fascinated by desire. I think, obviously, there's a biological drive that cannot be denied. It's completely human to be drawn towards desire, but I think desire can sometimes fill a gap for us in a way that nothing else can. That's why it's so addictive.
I think young girls are done a disservice when they are read fairy tales and given the fantasy of happily ever after. We're always told about the beginning and the end of a relationship, but what about the middle?
[on the polarized response by audiences to adulterous women in films] Men do that in movies all the time. We all love "Don Draper" [Mad Men (2007)] and look what he did. But any kind of sexual restlessness in a woman makes people deeply uncomfortable.
If there is one thing I have learned, it's to embrace the mess of life. None of us knows what our stories truly are. And if it's possible to have the calm and grace to accept that the truth is somewhere in the middle of that cacophony - then that's what I aspire to now.
[on Rebecca Jenkins, who plays Polley's mother in Stories We Tell (2012)] Rebecca is an astonishing actress. She's done such an amazing job that a lot of people don't realize, until the very end of the film, that those scenes are re-creations. It's a strange thing when an actor is so good you want to hide the fact that she's in your movie.
[on Stories We Tell (2012)] I was exploring the themes of infidelity and long-term relationships in both my previous features and all of my short films. And now that I've made a movie about where the interest came from, subconsciously, I wonder if I now have to make fundamentally different films. Having thrown the form up in the air to see where it landed - playing with structure in very different ways than I had before - it's going to be hard to make a straightforward film again.
[on directing Gordon Pinsent in 'Away from Her'] He learned the crew list with the same intensity as he learned his lines. He makes everyone feel so appreciated. He is also one of the funniest people I have ever met.. I think he brings such depth and humanity to the characters he plays. In 'Away from Her' he is the centre of the film. He is in almost every single frame. If the film works at all it is because of him.

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