Bio / Info
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.