Ellen David – actress / director / writer and mother
By : Sharman Yarnell – mtltimes.ca
And…her last film Brooklyn, is up for an Oscar for Best Film. The lead, Saoirse Ronan, has also been nominated for Best Actress. It has already won Best British Film at the BAFTAS (British equivalent to the Oscars). “Saoirse Ronan was a joy to work with!”
David is beyond proud of having being a part of the film.
She is, without a doubt, entrenched in the Arts. As a young child she enjoyed sitting beside her father in the car acting out scenes from movies with him. She learned his favourite songs, lines from movies, and entertained him sometimes when he was out on his job as a customer peddler, collecting what was owed him.
Christian de la Cortina
David talks of her father with such respect, such love. “The sparkle and joy in my father’s eyes when he watched me perform…he was always so appreciative. His laughter was the loudest in the audience, so I always knew when he was there.”
Needless to say, when her mother enlisted her father to talk some sense into her, it only worked on the outside. The pattern had been set! She took the obligatory classes at Concordia, in Commerce, to prepare for the family business but her heart was elsewhere. She was working as a bookkeeper at Jerome Myers International, when she met actor/director, Albert Schultz. Regaling her with stories about his life in the ‘biz’, the bubble burst and that was it! Her father actually urged her to follow her dream. So she switched to the Drama program at Concordia, studied for her Masters at York University, went to the Banff School of Fine Arts in the summer, then on to England to study at the London Theatre School, and finally, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. From England she went off to Paris and took courses at L’Ecole Philippe Gaulier.
David’s hard work and persistence have served her well. Her acting roles have been as diverse as her training. She moved from Paris to Toronto, where she, amongst many other things, worked as Sonia Smitts’ stand-in on Street Legal. Fluent in french, she was also cast in Denys Arcand’s film, Joyeux Calvaire. She is also featured in Goon with Eugene Levy playing her husband, directed by another Montrealer, Jay Barouchel.
Then there are the numerous television series. Urban Angel, Sirens, and Are You Afraid of the Dark, to name but a few.
David has received a Gemini, ACTRA and Canadian Comedy Award nominations
for her role as ‘Judith’ in CBC’s 18 to Life. She won the ACTRA award, Outstanding Female Performance, for her lead role in the film Surviving My Mother. And most recently was the recipient of the prestigious ACTRA Award of Excellence.
Her stage work includes Equus, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Mom’s the Word, Mambo Italiano, God of Carnage and Travesties. And if that isn’t enough, she is also known for her direction of The Book of Bob and The Leisure Society – most recently, she combined the two when she performed in, directed, and co-produced Love, Loss, and What I Wore at Centaur Theatre.
She never envisioned staying in Montreal for her career but every time she tried to leave something came up in the way of work. “Many attempts to leave were thwarted and it was always great work that I wanted to take. What’s the line from the Godfather lll? ‘Every time I tried to get out, I was drawn back in.’ I was always pulled back here to this city that I love, with it’s vibrant, rich and exciting culture.”
Being an actor takes determination and hard work. Being an actor in Montreal can be somewhat frightening, sometimes. “As an artist you are never sure you are going to make it….There are no guarantees in this business. There were times when I thought I might not make it but I believed in myself, I believed in the training I had, and the stories I wanted to tell. So, you just keep plugging away.” And she did!
Sometime last year, David was called in to audition for the role of Mrs. Fiorello in an Irish film. She had a call back, met the director, John Crowley, and the rest is movie history. The film was Brooklyn. “We rehearsed at Mel’s Studio before we shot the scene. As brief as the scene with the family is, it’s a very important one. The family is an anchor to that boy that she is involved with, and it is important that she meets the clan. It was so fulfilling. That one scene took a full day to shoot, and a day of rehearsal. It was shot in Old Montreal in one of these old, crumbling buildings. I remember walking up a warn, rickety, slanted staircase and…it was like walking into the past. The attention to detail was incredible.”
“What I really loved about the film, is that it is akin to the experience of reading a novel – the director dwells on faces, giving you time to read their thoughts as if you’re deciding what they are going to do next. Then you slowly turn the page, together, to the next scene. It was such a great experience.”
Coming up for David – her film, Shut In, with Naomi Watts, and the young Jacob Tremblay who’s in Room, will be out this year. Also, Nine Lives with Kevin Spacey. This July-August, it’s back to Theatre. She’ll be directing a play about the making of Gone With the Wind called Moonlight and Magnolias, out at Lac Brome.
If you think David’s face fills with love when talking about her profession, it is nothing compared to the glow when she talks of her greatest role to date! Mom to her son.