TIFF Newsmakers

Hilary Swank cleans up for the cameras, the Boss is still working, and the FUBAR guys have some advice for the PM

Sarah Silverman’s amazing week
She was at TIFF promoting Peep Show, but Sarah Silverman has been in town shooting Take This Waltz with director Sarah Polley. “Sarah is so supportive,” she told Maclean’s. “After my first take on my first day, she came up to me and said, ‘That was amazing!’ Then someone brought her a cup of coffee and she said, ‘This coffee is amazing!’ ” As for her Waltz co-star, Seth Rogen, she says, “He’s the least neurotic Jew I’ve ever met.”

Hosers to Harper: live a little
Just when you thought the hoser comedy had reached the end of its evolutionary rope, along comes FUBAR 2. David Lawrence and Paul Spence showed up in character to their red-carpet premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival—as Alberta metalheads Terry and Dean. Michael Dowse’s sequel to his 2002 mockumentary cult hit boasts a fatter budget and a sweeter story—an oil sands bromance that takes the moronic duo to the pipelines and peeler bars of Fort McMurray. Environmental rape and testicular cancer has never been funnier. Talking to Maclean’s, Dean (Spence) said Laureen Harper was an old hunting buddy of his father’s, prompting Terry (Lawrence) to suggest the Prime Minister should “make things cheaper, like 1984,” and “party with Laureen a little more.”

Daddy acts weird for a living
He’s a one-man comedy franchise, but with his latest role in the bittersweet drama Everything Must Go, Will Ferrell plays it straight. “Even in comedy,” said Ferrell in an interview, “I’ve always appreciated the masters of subtlety, those Bob Newharts of the world.” Ferrell, who has three kids, says that it was just this summer that the eldest, who’s six, found out what he did for a living. “My son said, ‘Papa’—he calls me Papa—‘I know what you do. You’re in movies.’ I asked, ‘How do you feel about that?’ ‘I’m okay with it,’ he says.” But his son may not be ready to see Ferrell in the bittersweet oblivion of Everything Must Go—as an alcoholic who camps on his lawn and sells off his possessions in a yard sale after he’s ditched by his boss and his wife.

A miracle in nine days
Trigger, starring Molly Parker and Tracy Wright as ex-rock stars and ex-addicts who meet after years apart, had to be rushed into production when Wright was diagnosed with terminal cancer. That gave the drama a heartbreaking resonance as Wright, who died in June, literally gave the performance of her life, showing she was one of the most underrated actors of her generation. Toronto director Bruce McDonald shot the film at a blistering rock ’n’ roll pace of nine days, spread over five weekends. One day, they shot 35 pages of dialogue in Toronto’s posh Canoe restaurant while Wright’s newlywed husband, actor-director Don McKellar, lay under the table, ready to cue them in case they forgot their lines. “If we’d started a week later, she wouldn’t have been able to do it,” Parker told Maclean’s. “That this thing even exists is a miracle.”

New kid in ‘Town’
America’s three most iconic actor-directors—Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen and Robert Redford—all unveiled new movies at TIFF. But the old masters were eclipsed by a suddenly hot Ben Affleck, who wrote, directed and starred in The Town, a gritty crime drama that also features Blake Lively (Gossip Girl), Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) and Jon Hamm (Mad Men). While Warner Bros. heavily promoted Affleck’s movie—which opened to an impressive weekend gross of US$24 million—the studio buried Eastwood’s Hereafter, limiting it to one TIFF screening, which drew a tepid response. Hereafter star Matt Damon, who’s made one other film with Eastwood, says his “direction is pretty spare,” and “there’s no anxiety on the set, ever.” Perhaps it’s time for Matt to cook up some tension with his old Good Will Hunting buddy Ben.

He wouldn’t be the Boss if he didn’t work so hard
Bruce Springsteen is at home singing to 30,000 fans, and Edward Norton can turn into a psychopath on a dime (Primal Fear), but both seemed awkward as the actor interviewed the rock star before a reverent audience at the new TIFF Bell Lightbox. Affecting a disingenuous stammer, Norton would take forever to ask a question, but the Boss—at TIFF for the premiere of The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town—was a game subject. Flashing his cinematic pedigree, he talked about how Bob Dylan uncovered the “Lynchian” landscape of ’60s America and how film noir imprinted his own music. When Norton asked him if musicians tend to hide their literate side to appear more “rock-starry,” Springsteen cited Dylan, saying he “was very conscious; he just wouldn’t talk about it.” For Bruce, that would be too easy.

Just like real life, but sexier
A couple of Oscar-winning sirens shared the red carpet last week with the real-life crusaders they portray onscreen. Kathryn Bolkovac, a nervy peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia who exposed a sex-trafficking ring supported by her UN colleagues, gave interviews alongside Rachel Weisz, who plays a more svelte version of her in The Whistleblower (directed by Canada’s Larysa Kondracki). And in Conviction, Hilary Swank bears little resemblance to Betty Anne Waters, a high-school dropout and single mom who became a lawyer to help free her wrongfully convicted brother. Swank said in an interview that, as a former tomboy who grew up in a trailer park “catching frogs and climbing trees,” she’s at home in blue-collar roles. If so, she cleans up good. Wearing a navy chenille dress, she showed off her footwear—“stiletto ankle boots with a little leather and lace and suede in all the right places,” she said. And as Weisz pointed out, there’s no pressure to impersonate someone no one recognizes. “If I was going to play Margaret Thatcher,” she said, “that would be more scary.” Meryl Streep is being touted to play Thatcher, but Weisz confirmed she hopes to portray Jacqueline Kennedy in a movie covering the two days before JFK’s assassination. She has the eyebrows and an in with the director: the movie is being developed by her fiancé, Darren Aronofsky, whose ballet melodrama Black Swan was a TIFF hit, generating Oscar buzz for Natalie Portman.

More gold, less glory
The festival’s crop of new Canadian films was top-heavy with American stars—such as Harvey Keitel (A Beginner’s Guide to Endings), Kat Dennings (Daydream Nation), and Paul Giamatti and Dustin Hoffman (Barney’s Version). But Canadian filmmakers aren’t exactly living the Hollywood dream. When Deborah Chow’s The High Cost of Living, starring Zach Braff, won TIFF’s $15,000 prize for best Canadian first feature, Chow thanked the sponsor “for saving me from working at Starbucks next week.” Fellow Montrealer Denis Villeneuve then trumped her as his film, Incendies, won the $30,000 best Canadian feature award—saying the feds have been hounding him for unpaid income taxes and now “I won’t go to jail.”

Shooting without a ball
Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash, who lists Dumb & Dumber and The Big Lebowski as two of his favourite films, has already done a handful of comedic commercials for companies such as VitaminWater. But Nash’s first movie is no joke; it’s a 51-minute tearjerker about Terry Fox called Into the Wind. “I just started to watch film after film after film and take more interest in directors, writers and stories,” he told Maclean’s before the movie’s TIFF premiere. “My passion grew so much that I just crossed that line from spectator to participant.” Nash now has his own film company, Meathawk Productions, and plans to make movies when he hangs up his eco-friendly Nikes and retires from basketball.

Marlon and me
Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel) says he wrote the lead role of Biutiful for Javier Bardem, who stars as a clairvoyant criminal with cancer who works the mean streets of Barcelona. The character, says Iñárritu, is tough outside and delicate inside, just like Bardem, who he says has the face of “a minotaur, an ancient Greek kind of figure wrapping a poet’s soul.” When told of the description, Bardem said, “Ah, like Marlon, Marlon Brando!” Then, suddenly sensitive, he added, “Don’t write that.”

If only he’d packed a sharper knife
Due to a technical glitch, an audience spent longer waiting for a screening of Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours than watching it. That wasn’t the only demand made on them. The movie—the true story of climber Aron Ralston (James Franco), who amputates his arm with a blunt pen knife after being pinned by a boulder for five days—is so gory that some spectators, feeling faint, fled the theatre. Tackling TIFF can be an extreme sport.

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