Toronto puts the spotlight on hot movies
05:00 AM, Sep 08, 2013
THE LATE-NIGHT ‘CLUB’
Dallas Buyers Club was worth the wait.
Ticket holders sat engrossed past midnight for the Saturday premiere. The true story showcases Matthew McConaughey as a homophobic Texas cowboy diagnosed with AIDS in 1986 and given 30 days to live.
Distrustful of his doctors (Jennifer Garner and Denis O’Hare), Woodroof begins smuggling drugs — not approved by the FDA yet effective — across the border for himself and a wide circle of AIDS-afflicted customers. For a time the scheme works, assisted by an unlikely ally: a transsexual (Jared Leto) who befriends Woodroof.
By 12:20 a.m., the Toronto audience was on its feet to cheer on McConaughey as he emerged for a Q&A session with director Jean-Marc Vallee, Garner and Leto. The actor bashfully took a bow.
The heartbreaking story, told with an undercurrent of humor, was shot in just 27 days. “People always ask, ‘What was the best prank?’ There was no time for a prank,” said McConaughey.
The movie opens Nov. 1.
“If people could only see how this tiny crew scrambled around, and how we never stopped shooting,” said Garner.
McConaughey talked about losing 38 pounds to look emaciated on screen. “My wife wasn’t too fond of it,” he said. “It’s what was needed to be true to the role.”
“They didn’t bother with craft service,” added Garner. “Just me and the crew sneaked doughnuts off to the side.”
SIRI SURPRISES SPIKE JONZE
If your upcoming sci-fi romance hasn’t been completed, what does one bring to the Toronto film fest?
Compelling footage. On Sunday afternoon, director Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are, Being John Malkovich) previewed several clips from his futuristic love story Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams and the voice of Scarlett Johansson. Phoenix’s character downloads an advanced intelligent operating system to organize his life. What he didn’t expect was to fall in love with the customized voice he was provided. Release date is Dec. 18
Jonze said the release of Apple’s Siri while he was in production slightly blindsided him. “At first I was like, ‘Oh (expletive), are they stealing our thunder?’” he said. “Really, the movie is very different. Siri is just a voice reading commands. The idea of this is that the character (Johansson voices) is this consciousness and entity in her own right. And that makes the possibilities infinitely larger.”
‘RUSH’ PUTS LEADS IN FAST LANE
Rush, an adrenaline-fueled true story of fierce Formula One rivals, allows two actors to shine in a bold new way.
Thor’s Chris Hemsworth has dropped the hammer, playing rules-eschewing James Hunt, a sex-addicted daredevil determined to win the world championship in 1976. And Daniel Bruhl (Julian Assange’s second-in-command in The Fifth Estate) plays Niki Lauda, Hunt’s calculating, terse rival whose Ferrari edged out Hunt race after race until he suffered a terrible crash.
Director Ron Howard also has the Jay Z documentary Made in America at the festival. “It’s been an experimental year of following my curiosities,” says Howard, who knew little of Formula One before becoming fascinated by this particular rivalry.
The actors joined Howard to talk Saturday at the Park Hyatt.
“I love Toronto,” said Bruhl, a Spanish-born German actor whose biggest film in the USA to date was Inglourious Basterds. “In Cannes there’s much more pressure and hysteria.”
“Or more desperation,” says Howard, thanks to the dizzying sales atmosphere at the French festival. Here, the director is looking forward to seeing friends. “I hear Matthew McConaughey’s here, so I’m going to try to connect with him.”
For Hemsworth, it’s a chance to show his acting chops after gaining popularity in the Marvel universe. “I understood James’ want to prove something to himself, that he had that right to be there,” he says.
Rush, which hits theaters Sept. 27, “is an amazing new step for me,” says Bruhl. “I’m getting offers and interest from people I’ve always admired.”
KIDMAN ‘ATTACHED’ TO FIRTH
Nicole Kidman doesn’t work much these days, opting to spend most of her time at home with her daughters. But she made an exception for The Railway Man, a film about World War II atrocities starring Colin Firth.
“I wanted to do it because of what it’s about: forgiveness,” she said at Friday’s after-party at the Hive. “I’d never worked with Colin. I subsequently did another. I’m now attached at the hip to him.”
She’s referring to their drama Before I Go to Sleep.
It’s a big year for Kidman, with Grace of Monaco also slated for release.
Her daughters Faith, 2, and Sunday, 5, were home in Nashville with Kidman’s husband, Keith Urban. After 24 hours in Toronto, Kidman was heading back Saturday morning.
“I do a film and I take four months off. I’ve been in Nashville. We’ve been out on the tour bus. It’s so fun. I love it,” Kidman says. “We went to St. Louis and Birmingham and Indianapolis.
“Faith loves to dance on the side of the stage and Sunday likes to watch movies. You’ve got the actress and the musician,” Kidman says.
BROLIN LABORS FOR HIS FILM
Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet are receiving high praise for their performances in director Jason Reitman’s Labor Day, out in late December. Brolin plays a fugitive ex-con who gets involved with a depressed single mother (Winslet).
The film, based on Joyce Maynard’s book, explores the mother’s co-dependent relationship with her son and an inability to separate from him. Brolin, the son of Jane Cameron Agee, a wildlife activist, could relate.
“With me and my mom, we had a very similar thing. Not me and my kids. My mom was a good mom, but my mom didn’t deal with people well. She dealt with animals. She was a big personality,” says Brolin.
And he fully comprehends the isolation and loneliness of Winslet’s character, Adele. “I had a really interesting thing. I was just in Switzerland climbing. I spent a lot of time in the quiet. To make the transition to do this right now — I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t want to talk about me. Let the movie be what it is. When I got here, I spent two days in my room and did not leave. It’s wild. I understand that thing,” says Brolin.
OVATION ON OPENING NIGHT
Going first can feel perilous.
Just ask director Bill Condon, who took the stage for the festival’s opening gala Thursday night with his cast, debuting the political drama The Fifth Estate. The film pulls the curtain back on Julian Assange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) and the rise of WikiLeaks, where top-secret diplomatic cables were released.
No need to fear. The festival audience gave the film a standing ovation as credits rolled.
Afterward, Condon seemed relieved. “I was feeling nervous but also OK, because it is Toronto,” he said. “And I think it is just such a great film-loving and open-minded audience. I found that was true when we showed Kinsey here, and it felt the same way tonight.”
The movie opens Oct. 18.
AUDIENCE STANDS AGAIN
You can hear 12 Years a Slave gaining momentum.
The film earned a standing ovation Friday following an acclaimed debut at the Telluride festival last week.
Slave, out in limited release Oct. 18, is based on the story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man living in Saratoga, N.Y., in 1841 who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South. Solomon, an educated, well-traveled violinist, slowly descends into a dehumanized hell with no discernible exit.
When the lights came on, the cast took the stage for a brief Q&A session. Director Steve McQueen “was the first to ask the big question: Why aren’t there more films about American slavery? It took a Brit to ask,” said producer Brad Pitt (who also has a cameo).
“It was very intense to go to these places,” said Ejiofor. “Solomon’s story … was full of beauty and hope, the hope of human respect and human dignity.”
FIRTH SEES THE LIGHTNESS
Colin Firth doesn’t mind aging himself. “I’ve been coming here since the late ’80s, when it was so much smaller,” he says about the festival.
He has been here for The King’s Speech and A Single Man. He won an Oscar for the former and was nominated for the latter. And this year, Firth is headlining the war drama The Railway Man.
Firth, who flew in from France, where he is working on Woody Allen’s latest film, displays his usual blend of low-key, sly humor.
“Almost everything you read about a film has been written by a jet-lagged person with an insane schedule operating on caffeine, talking to a person who’s in exactly the same state. It’s this volatile cocktail of nonsense — or a bizarre recipe for lucidity,” says Firth, drinking a cappuccino. “There’s something of a lightness about Toronto. The selection of films is good. A festival always has an ethos. There’s an underlying, genuine love of film. It’s not just a cynical marketplace.”