Elliot Page said he came down with shingles due to stress while shooting "Inception" at age 22.
Page was confused by his casting in the movie and was also dealing with "chaos" in his personal life.
"Shingles communicated the stress my body felt, what my words could not," he wrote in his memoir.
Elliot Page said he came down with a case of shingles while shooting "Inception" because he was suffering high levels of stress while working on the project and trying to navigate "chaos" in his personal life.
Writing in his new memoir "Pageboy," which was released Tuesday, the actor, who played Ariadne in the 2010 sci-fi film, said that "shingles communicated the stress my body felt" while on set.
Shingles — also known as herpes zoster — is an infection that manifests as a painful rash and typically looks like a strip of blisters but can also cause symptoms including chills, fever, headaches, and vision loss.
"Shingles popped out of my spine while filming 'Inception' when I was twenty-two," he wrote.
"Despite everyone being delightful to work with, I felt out of place," he wrote of the Christopher Nolan-directed movie, adding: "In a cast full of cis men, I did not understand the role I found myself in."
"For the first two weeks of the film I joked I would be recast with Keira Knightley, and rightfully so," he continued.
In the film, Page portrayed an architecture student who is recruited by Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to be part of their team, along with Eames (Tom Hardy) and Yusuf (Dileep Rao). His character's specific job is to construct the dreamscapes.
Page shot the movie more than a decade before he underwent his gender transition from female to male. It was also before he had announced publicly that he (while still presenting as female) was attracted to women.
He described the confusion and stress he was feeling while navigating closeted relationships with other women. At the time, Page was secretly dating a woman who was "out, and surrounded by a community of queer women" while he was still keeping his sexuality a secret.
He recalled: "I was not settled, I still felt out of place, stirring up the dust. A pinball of projection, I internalized the chaos. It left me feeling bereft of hope."
"My body hoarded the unexamined emotions, sensations, wants, and needs," he wrote. "Easy sentences prepared in my brain, stuck. They were visible to me, written out, I heard the voice but my mouth refused to cooperate. Just the tick tick tick of the windup toy, or nothing at all."
Research suggests that high levels of mental stress can increase the risk of shingles as much as two times for men.
Shingles is caused by the same virus as chickenpox and so having had chickenpox puts you at risk of getting shingles in the future.
Once you've had chickenpox, the virus lives dormant in your body, your immune system keeping it from manifesting again, unless the immune system is weakened which can happen with some treatments — such as chemotherapy — or illnesses — such as HIV.
The immune system can also be weakened by stress, which Page said may have been the case for him. This is because stress causes a fight or flight response in the body and cortisol — the stress hormone — suppresses the immune system.
"Pageboy" by Elliot Page is out now.
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