Sarah Polley on her unflinching memoir: ‘Can you forgive – and should you forgive?’

As a child star, the actor suffered trauma and neglect. Now an acclaimed director, she is confronting the ghosts of her past with a frank new book

When Sarah Polley was four years old she entertained her Christian kindergarten class with a rendition of the Monty Python song Sit on My Face. “I love to hear you oralise / When you’re between my thighs … ” she chirruped, to the delight of her libertarian parents, who denied all responsibility when they were called to account by the school.

At the age of eight, egged on by her superfan dad, she auditioned for a new fantasy adventure movie by the Pythons’ Terry Gilliam. She was already the veteran of a handful of horror films she was too young to watch, but The Adventures of Baron Munchausen was something else: an absurdist riot of special effects, the filming of which often left her sobbing in her parents’ arms after being forced to run across battlefields, with explosions all around her and nothing but a couple of cotton wool balls to protect her little ears. Gilliam has always maintained that he has kept a safe set, but the experience is one of the reasons why she is so determined not to allow her own three children to become child actors, although two are already keen, and she relented during the filming of her latest movie, because casting them as extras was the only way she could get them on set under the stringent Covid regulations.

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