Friday 10:10 a.m.
Gerard Butler dismisses his bodyguard from his hotel interview room at the Intercontinental on Front. The bodyguard is there because he and his colleagues on the film Machine Gun Preacher have received death threats. (Directed by Marc Forster, it’s based on the true story of Sam Childers, an American biker and former drug dealer turned preacher who routinely risks his life to rescue kidnapped child soldiers in the Sudan.) The bodyguard gives Butler – who looks plenty meaty enough to take care of himself – an “Are you sure?” look. Butler nods slowly and the guard exits. Butler rolls his eyes. “Last night, when we came out of the airport, we were attacked by this crowd of paparazzi, crowding in, yelling, flashbulbs popping,” he says, in a Scottish accent thick enough to stuff a haggis. “We had all our bags slung over us, we couldn’t move, and he [the bodyguard]was just sort of standing there. Hello, I really could have used you then. Now, here in the room with one journalist, he’s all ready to go.”
Friday 1 p.m.
Michel Hazanavicius, the director of the pretty much irresistible, silent black-and-white comedy The Artist, says he’s discovered an interesting thing about other filmmakers. They envy him.
“I was talking to Alexander Payne at another festival and he said, ‘You did what I wanted to do. You made a silent movie.’ I think, really, every filmmaker has this fantasy.”
The director’s own fantasy started about eight years ago. He had always admired the great directors who came from the silent era – Lang, Hitchcock, Ford, Lubitsch and Murnau – but “no one would do it. French television won’t even show black and white movies on television any more.”
It wasn’t until he had a couple of successful James Bond spoof films under his belt that Hazanavicius got his chance. After taking the time to study silent cinema and focusing on Hollywood films from the late twenties, he made his film.
“Why do other directors dream of doing this? Because it was a true director’s medium. The writing was created in the service of the direction. It’s not naturalistic it’s a oneiric [dream-like]form that’s a little like saying to the audience ‘Once upon a time...’”
Though it was initially hard to find a producer, he says, he had an attractive pitch: There would be no language barrier anywhere. Though it may not play as well in France as films made in French, it had a ready audience around the world, where language barrier wouldn’t exist.
As a comparison, he mentions the global success of animated films, which are dubbed in different languages around the world. “Pixar, in particular, is making some of the best films in the world right now, and, as in the silent era, everyone in the world can enjoy them equally.”
Friday 6:30 p.m.
Friday’s private pre-screening dinner for Sons of Norway, the Norwegian movie starring John Lydon – aka Johnny Rotten – was a cozy but bittersweet affair, like the movie itself. Held at The Stirling Room in the Distillery, about 25 people attended. The movie’s producer Christian Fredrik Martin was the host. He has two hot movies at TIFF, the other being the thriller Headhunters. A clearly exhausted and jet-lagged Lydon arrived, said some “hello’s” and then sat alone, nursing a beer for a while. He was hoping to revive himself for the dinner and the screening but also hoping – as were many there – that an invitation to Bono and The Edge of U2 to attend the dinner would be accepted. A meeting of rock royalty was on the cards and the word was that the attendance of Bono and The Edge was “likely but not certain.”
Then word came that downtown Toronto traffic was snarled and the U2 guys had been told they would be unlikely to make it to the Distillery before the dinner ended. Lydon joined the dinner, sat at the head of the table and mostly chatted with Sons of Norway director Jens Lien. When Lien made a brief speech saying how pleased he and his movie’s team were to be at TIFF, Lydon shouted, “I’m not!” And then cackled, Johnny Rotten-style. This managed to lighten the mood and it didn’t matter that the U2 stars weren’t coming. Here was the original Punk hero holding court. He did that mostly outside on the sidewalk, smoking and chatting with guests from the Embassy of Norway and with actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who has a major role in Headhunters and is one the stars of the HBO series Game of Thrones. Tourists wandering the Distlllery were mostly unaware that the cackling and laughing from inside a small group shrouded in a cloud of thick ciggie smoke was that of the original Punk star. Lydon was revived for the screening where he said, “I don’t give my name to much but I gave my name to this, because it’s about youthful rebellion, and I still consider myself a rebel and youthful.”
Friday 3 a.m.
It was 10 p.m. Then it was 11 p.m. Then it was almost midnight. Okay, fine, there were copious snacks and drinks (along with Skyy Vodka girls in skimpy outfits waving their gams). But the reason everyone was at the South of Temperance party for the Alliance Films Party in Celebration of 'Ides of March' wasn’t good nosh: What the hordes wanted were Gosling and Clooney – and despite light-speed drop-ins by their co-stars in the film Evan Rachel Wood (dressed like a dude with a suit and a jaunty fedora), Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman – the big wattage was a no-show. Or so it seemed. Turns out, Gosling and Clooney did hit the party. Around midnight, they were sitting in their limos waiting to join the rest of the cast inside. But as the fan furor on the street started to build, the lead actors’ security people got freaked – and decided to pull the boys away, taking them instead to a restaurant where Brad and Angie were having a bite to eat. The only consolation that night? Cee-Lo Green, who among other numbers, sang his famous song Forget You. Apt, the crowd was probably thinking.
Saturday 12 p.m.
A bit of egregious brand promotion took place at the press conference for the David Cronenberg shrink drama A Dangerous Method when a woman describing herself as a L'Oreal rep posed a fluffball question to Keira Knightley about her favourite historical period for beauty. The actress, who plays a one-time patient who becomes an important psychoanalyst, sidestepped the ridiculous question. But let's hope it's not a trend. What next? “Hello, I'm a representative of McDonald's and I just want to ask David Cronenberg, ‘Do you feel you deserve a break today?’” By comparison, Viggo Mortensen's decision to wave about Guy Lafleur's Montreal Canadiens jersey was more intrinsic to the movie, an example of an actor rebelling against his father figure – and Leaf fan – Cronenberg. Fans are sure to recognize the parallels to the rivalry between The Viennese Superegos and the Zurich Archetypes of the old European League.
Saturday 1:30 p.m.
Alone in a small park behind the Ryerson Theatre, where folks walk their yappy little dogs, British director Michael Winterbottom is talking the way he works – at warp speed. He’s talking about Trishna, his adaptation of Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles relocated to present-day India. Keenly observant, intelligently paced, with a beautifully restrained performance by Freida Pinto in the title role, the film has everything going for it except what a film most needs: a distributor. Four years ago, when Winterbottom made A Mighty Heart with the mighty Angelina Jolie, distribution wasn’t a problem. Three years ago, when he made an equally fine picture, Genova starring Colin Firth, the movie never saw the light of a North American release. Even for a talented director with his impressive canon, the biz can be quixotically cruel. Let’s hope Trishna meets a better fate than Hardy gave his heroine, and the film gets what it deserves – screens first, then an audience.
Saturday 1:45 p.m.
In an interview at the Intercontinental on Front, Kirsten Dunst says that she tried to interrupt writer/director Lars von Trier’s now-infamous, self-destructive soliloquy about how he related to Hitler during a press conference for their film Melancholia at the Cannes Film Festival in May. “I kind of leaned over to him and whispered in his ear for him to stop,” she says. “It was so embarrassing. He’s a friend of mine, and watching him spiral into something really inappropriate – you can’t say things like that. But the interviewer asked him an inappropriate question, too, about the death of his mother. When someone asks me something intimate like that, I get angry.” Von Trier took her out to dinner afterward and apologized. But she’s also clear-eyed about the value of publicity, however scandalous. “My family in Los Angeles didn’t hear anything from Cannes except for when that happened,” she says. “It was on every blog. I don’t think that hurt the movie. The movie holds its own.”
Saturday 2 p.m.
On-the-rise star Michael Fassbender had publicists here in a knot on Friday because he’d mysteriously missed his flight from Venice. Turns out he had good reason: Venice called the star of two films at TIFF (David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method and Steve McQueen’s Shame) back to the Lido because he’d picked up the Coppa Volpi prize for best actor for his raw portrayal of a man sinking into a sex addiction in Shame.: (The top prize at Venice went to Alexander Sokurov’s film Faust, and Shangjun Cai, snagged the Silver Lion for best director for People Mountain People Sea, beating out Roman Polanski and George Clooney)
Saturday 3:05 p.m.
George Clooney is a serious filmmaker, a serious actor and a guy with a serious funny bone. When asked at the standing-room-only press conference how he got the all-star cast for his political drama The Ides of March, which stars himself, Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood, he quipped that he had “pictures of a few of them in compromising positions – some of them together.” Later, Wood was explaining that she had an “amazing” time working with the wise-cracking men in this film, “who are the best guys in the world.” George, she then added, is “passing me money under the table.” To which Clooney dead-panned: “That’s not money.”
Saturday 3:25 p.m.
During a roundtable interview at the Ritz for Drive, Ryan Gosling puzzles half a dozen Danish and South American reporters with a long digression on his love for Halloween. His character, a stunt driver turned criminal, always has a toothpick in his mouth, wears driving gloves and sports a white satin jacket with a scorpion on the back, which gets increasingly filthy, torn and bloody as the movie continues. “My dream has always been to create a character that people go out as for Halloween,” Gosling said. “Now I’ve done it – the jacket, the gloves, the toothpick, and the handsome-man mask. You can order it online.”
Saturday 5:20 p.m.
In a post-premiere on-stage appearance at Bell Lightbox hosted by director Atom Egoyan, Barrymore star Christopher Plummer confessed that the one acting part he’s long hankered to play (but never has) is that of Othello – “as a Moor.” The 82-year-old thespian acknowledged doing so might prove “difficult” since the part now seems to belong to “African-Americans, and I might be lynched if I did it.” But, he said with a laugh, “my Iago will be black.”
Saturday 6 p.m.
A little creativity can go a long way when it comes to snagging a moment with a celebrity at TIFF. Waiting outside Roy Thomson Hall for the stars of A Dangerous Method to arrive Saturday night, one fan used his home country to score some points with one of the festival’s biggest names. Banking on a bit of nationalism from British actress Keira Knightley, the fan scribbled this note on a large piece of cardboard: “Keira, I’m from England!! Come say hi.” He drew a smiley face beside the last word, leaned the sign up against the metal barricade he and hundreds of other fans were pressed against, and waited. The effort was rewarded: When a demure Ms. Knightley disembarked from the SUV that brought her to the carpet, he was the first fan she greeted.
Saturday 9 p.m.
While on the red carpet and during an interview with ET Canada, Seth Rogen took out his BlackBerry and started texting. Why? Apparently even movie stars have trouble getting tickets to the premieres of their films. His sister wasn’t having much luck trying to get into Roy Thomson Hall to see Take This Waltz, so Rogen took to his phone to try to sort things out. By the time he got to the Globe’s red carpet spot (two down from ET) he said his sister almost had her ticket in hand. “If I can’t get my sister in, she’ll literally beat [me]the shit out of me,” he said, explaining his need to text on the carpet. If only we all had movie-star brothers.
Saturday 9 p.m.
Watch out, Toronto. Word has it that Sarah Silverman fell in love with the city while shooting Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz here. The comedienne apparently took lessons to perfect a Torontonian accent for the movie, but that doesn’t mean she’ll act all polite like a local. On the red carpet for the film’s premiere, Silverman – dressed in a body hugging black dress – responded to one reporter’s question with quip that he should just “Google” her for answers. Then she flipped the bird to a photographer. More training may be required.
Saturday 9:15 p.m.
It’s one way to get a film project off the ground.
In his opening remarks at the screening of Drive screening, director Nicholas Winding Refn said he’d been at a party with actor Ryan Gosling and was, by his own admission, “high as a kite.” Gosling, gent that he is, gave Refn a lift home. It was as awkward as a “blind date ... but no action,” Rehn said to the audience. Instead, Gosling turned on the car radio to break the tension. “So here I was in a car with Ryan Gosling crying, listening to REO Speedwagon’s I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore, and I get some kind of visual link to something in my mind,” Rehn says. “And I turn to Ryan for the first time in the car, this great looking man, and I scream in his face, ‘I know what we’re going to do. We’re going to make a movie about a man who rides around in a car at night listening to pop music because that’s his emotional relief.’ And Ryan, great guy that he is, looks at me and says ‘I’m in.’”
The final product, of course, has more to it than that. Gosling plays a wheel-man with a bounty on his head after a heist gone wrong.
Saturday 9:30 p.m.
Actor Nick Krause, who plays a smiling slacker named Sid in Alexander Payne’s bittersweet comedy The Descendants, is leaning on a curved banquette at the Fox Searchlight/Vanity Fair party surrounded by well-wishers. A complete newcomer, he steals several scenes from George Clooney and Robert Forster, and tonight he’s the living embodiment of the TIFF dream. A very short while ago, he was just another wannabe actor in Austin, Texas. One day his agent knocked on his bedroom door – his agent, by the way, is his mother – and told him they’d be driving two hours to put an audition on tape for Payne. Two weeks later, Payne flew him to New York to read in person. “I brought a bag of Cheetos,” Krause says cheerily. “I just thought Sid was the kind of guy who thinks everyone wants Cheetos at the end of the day.” Payne ate the Cheetos. Krause during his scenes. “He told me in the room that I was hired,” Krause says of Payne. Now Krause lives in L.A. with his girlfriend. And his mom is still his agent – but in a split deal, with William Morris.
Sunday 11:35 a.m.
She’s tall, lean, has superb posture and was dressed head-to-toe in black, including a pair of slip-ons sans socks. Her hair was classically Swinton-esque – streaked white-ish blonde, severely cropped in the style of Annie Lennox. Warm smile, engaging manner, superior cheekbones. And it’s not every day that you hear a movie star at TIFF use the expression “capitalist practice.” The ineffably chic Tilda Swinton made an in-and-out appearance at the screening of We Need to Talk About Kevin (in which she stars and served as executive producer), followed by a sort of retrospective/conversation before a crowd of about 200 hosted by Bell Lightbox artistic director Noah Cowan. Clips from about 20 of her films were shown, and what a protean display: Orlando, The Deep End, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and her Oscar-winning turn in 2007’s Michael Clayton. “One thing that binds all my work is the question of identity and transformation,” she said, claiming to be moved by the doubt and tumult that results from trying to pick just one identity. “The only thing we’ve got is change.”
Sunday 2 p.m.
It seems like a running theme this festival. First Nicolas Winding Rehn says he was stoned when he came up with the idea for the film Drive. Now, Francis Ford Coppola admits his inspiration for Twixt came from an “alcohol-induced dream.” At the premiere of his newest movie – a gothic romance about a writer past his prime who gets caught up in a murder mystery – the directing legend said he was in Istanbul at the time, and was by the Islamic call to prayer.
How the interrupted dream translated into film? Coppola says he’s ready for the critics to pan him – for now. “I'm used to the idea that you make a film and people are unsure about it. And 30 years later, they like it,” he said. Now, however, he’s 72 and time is of the essence. “Unfortunately now, with this film ... I might not be alive when I finally get the results.
Sunday. 2 p.m.
Sometimes actors just can't cut the cord with their characters. During my interview with Robin Wright and Woody Harrelson, I asked Harrelson to describe the hideous cop he portrays in the gritty drama Rampart. He said the dirty policeman – a bigoted womanizer who wields his gun murderously – did a few “morally ambiguous” things but was basically trying to do right.
Huh? It sounded like I was speaking with his character, Dave (Date-Rape) Brown, who was completely at ease with his awful violence and very capable of explaining away his often brutal transgressions. The stunning Wright, sitting extremely close to Harrelson for the chat, laughed at her fellow vegan's attempt at rationalization. “C'mon,” she said. “We all saw the film.” Harrelson just shook his head, smiling at his attempt to defend his loathsome character.