Deluxe Award For Outstanding Achievement 2012: Sarah Polley

Sarah Polley 2-1

When you hear the words child star, most people think has-been adult actor desperate for work and still craving the spotlight.

That would NOT be Sarah Polley, who began her career in Canadian TV as a cute child star on Road To Avonlea, playing a bubbly little girl in a sugar-coated ’90s family drama based on the classic Anne novels by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

But on her way to becoming a reluctant Hollywood star by portraying wounded and conflicted young women, Polley parlayed her celebrity into becoming a fast-rising Canadian director and screenwriter, most notably with her Oscar-nominated directorial debut, Away From Her.

And that has earned the young actor, director and screenwriter this year’s Deluxe Award for Outstanding Achievement. The prize recognizes Polley’s contributions to the Canadian industry, despite her youth (she’s still in her early 30s).

Polley’s second film, Take This Waltz, like her first, bowed at the Toronto International Film Festival, as does her latest, Stories We Tell.

The National Film Board of Canada documentary features Polley as both filmmaker and detective as she probes the secrets behind a family of storytellers.

And still atop the director’s chair, Polley is at work on an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s historical novel Alias Grace.

That, and continuing acting gigs, has kept Polley, who was born into an entertainment family, busy from her base in Toronto.

Her Canadian acting credits include surviving a bus crash in Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter, Vincenzo Natali’s Splice, Clement Virgo’s Love Come Down, David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ and Thom Fitzgerald’s The Hanging Garden.

Elsewhere, Polley’s status as an indie “It Girl” in Hollywood has landed her movie credits like Hal Hartley’s No Such Thing, Michael Winterbottom’s The Claim and a game-changing role in Go, Doug Liman’s 1999 follow-up to his hit Swingers. That role more than any allowed Polley to mostly leave behind TV and her child acting days with Road to Avonlea, as she pursued a now successful career in independent film.

And, but for the occasional turn on the red carpet to market a movie, Polley has also left behind the designer dresses and other trappings of celebrityhood to instead quietly, and yet passionately, pursue her craft from Canada. A forgotten child star? Hardly.