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TIFF 2006 Buzz

Polley's debut film lands U.S. deal

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

U.S. distribution for Sarah Polley's acclaimed feature directorial debut Away from Her has been bought by production and distribution company Lionsgate, which is planning to release the film next spring. London-based HanWay Films has been the film's sales agent at the festival, an enviable position given the stellar critical reception Away from Her has received in Toronto. Capri Releasing is the Canadian distributor and was on board as far back as the script stage roughly a year and a half ago. It has also been sold in 26 other markets internationally.

Lionsgate has had a busy festival, selling off foreign distribution rights for the Canadian film Fido. Lionsgate executives in the midst of deal-making this week said that another of the company's films at the festival, The U.S. vs. John Lennon, will likely have been sold by the end of TIFF.

No, the Chicks are still not

ready to make nice

At this point, what does it matter that the Dixie Chicks' outspoken singer Natalie Maines looks directly at the camera and calls George W. Bush a "dumb fuck"? She already said, during a concert three years ago in London, that she was ashamed the president was from her home state of Texas and from that moment on sparked a free-speech controversy that has dogged the band for three years. She makes the new remark about Bush in a candid scene in the documentary Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing, which premiered Tuesday night at the festival.

At a press conference, Maines admitted she'd worried for a split second about her words on camera.

But the Chicks, who are far more playful than confrontational in person, had lots to say to the press about their continual disappointment in the White House, the dangers of media consolidation and even parallels to the persecution of John Lennon as seen in The U.S. vs. John Lennon, another film at the festival with a very similar theme.

And Maines -- never one to shirk from a fight -- appears in the documentary wearing her now-famous shirt that reads "FUTK." "TK" stands for Toby Keith, who criticized and mocked the Chicks for their remarks. We all know what "FU" stands for. Some pro-Bush, "support the troops" critics responded by wearing FUDC T-shirts. But, as Maines wonders, what do these people have against Dick Cheney? But we already knew that about J. Lo, didn't we?

The buzz in the room before the press conference for El Cantante, the film starring Jennifer Lopez and her hubby Marc Anthony, about salsa legend Hector Lavoe, wasn't about the movie, but whether J. Lo would be "showing" the tell-tale "bump."

It was clear the couple is still in the honeymoon phase, and that Anthony reveres his bride. He told the crowd he's never met anyone "with such laser focus, such clarity. I'm way more laid-back, and it's fascinating to me. She does not do anything halfway. It's just not conceivable.

"She's quite an amazing woman, really."

Oh, so that's what the movie was about

In a jam-packed press conference for Anthony Minghella's new film Breaking and Entering, starring Jude Law, Robin Wright Penn and Juliette Binoche, Minghella was the one doing most of the talking about the London-shot drama, which revolves around a collision of class and culture in the neighbourhood of King's Cross.

When the stars were asked a banal question about how they were enjoying Toronto, Binoche replied honestly, saying she's been stuck in hotel rooms talking to journalists. And when pressed, Wright Penn said a mere "Ditto."

Talk turned to one of the film's small roles, that of Oana, a Romanian immigrant and sex worker played by Vera Farmiga. Law's character, Will, befriends the feisty woman but does not bed her. "I loved the idea of this encounter," Minghella said. "Will's character is looking for some way out of what he sees as a prison. . . . A woman gets into his car who sells her body. And he's completely terrified."

The moderator noticed all three actors listening intently and said, rather sharply, that it looked like the three actors were "discovering their characters." He turned to Law and asked, "Didn't he give you your background story before you started shooting?"

Law, taken aback, said, "I just like listening to him." And Wright Penn added an apropos zinger: "We steal information for our next interviews."

Can't swing a Ribisi

without hitting a hunk

It was the Night of Cute Men at the annual In Style/Hollywood Foreign Press party at the Windsor Arms on Tuesday. In this corner, Scottish newcomer James McAvoy -- he has three films at TIFF, the coming-of-age comedy Starter for Ten, the

Idi Amin drama The Last King of Scotland, and the romantic fable Penelope -- reacted to being called this year's It Boy. "I'm usually suspicious of the It anything," he said. "Being called It is an invitation to being called Not It immediately." Over on a banquette, Scott Caan and Giovanni Ribisi, who are hoping to sell their comedy The Dog Problem, were all business. "We're not drinking and we're going to bed early," Caan said. "We're boring."

Across the room, Liam Neeson, star of Seraphim Falls, sat with his Kinsey co-star Laura Linney. Told he looked younger and thinner than ever, Neeson replied, "That's marriage. I'm a stay-home dad [to two sons, aged 10 and 11] while Natasha [Richardson, his wife] is shooting a film."

There was a gift for the fellas in the swag bags, too, and it was oh so diplomatic: his-and-hers underpants from La Senza, small for the ladies and large for the men.

Neeson and Brosnan:

silent stars

Chewing a toothpick, sporting dark glasses and speaking in a morning-after growl, Liam Neeson was somewhat low-key at yesterday's Seraphim Falls press conference. Why the shades? "I've got a bit of a scratch in my eye," he muttered. "That's my story, and I'm sticking to it." Slightly chattier was his co-star Pierce Brosnan, who talked about the benefits of filming the post-American Civil War epic, in which Brosnan plays a U.S. Army officer who is pursued across the Wild West by a vengeful Confederate veteran (Neeson). "There was no acting required," said Brosnan cheerfully. "In the desert outside Santa Fe, you're supposed to be hot and thirsty; you are thirsty." Besides, he said, he always wanted to dress up like a cowboy: "My hero was Clint Eastwood." This elicited an amiable growl from Neeson: "Even before Clint, my hero was Audie Murphy." But that wasn't all that drew him to Seraphim Falls. "To get a chance to ride horses, shoot guns and wear a cowboy hat was a joy. And I loved the fact that in this film we hardly speak at all." So maybe that accounts for his taciturnity at the morning presser. He was still in cowboy character.

From the Web:

A Pierce-ing question

On globeandmail.com, we've asked readers to submit questions for stars at TIFF. James Rendle from Britain wanted to ask Brosnan, "What do you think of the new James Bond, Daniel Craig, and will you be watching Casino Royale?" The question raised groans from the gathered press and photographers at yesterday's Seraphim press conference. "And it was all going so well . . .," Brosnan said, seemingly to himself, and the room erupted in laughter. After the everyone quieted down, Brosnan gave a brief answer.

"I'm looking forward to it like we're all looking forward to it. Daniel Craig is a great actor and he's going to do a fantastic job."

Pinsent doing well after gala-night collapse

Gordon Pinsent was on the road to a full recovery yesterday after collapsing at the opening-night party for Sarah Polley's Away from Her. The 76-year old Canadian actor said he was feeling much better, and had collapsed from exhaustion after a full day of interviews and the excitement of the premiere.

"Oh my goodness, the opening night for the film was just overbearing," he said from his Toronto home. "It was totally locked down. And then we got a standing ovation afterwards. It would have been overwhelming for anyone. I'm just sorry that I had to make such a splendid exit, by ambulance," he added, chuckling.

Correction

Hayden and Tove Christensen will be at Toronto's Ultra Supper Club tonight celebrating their production company Forest Park Productions. Incorrect information appeared in Globe Toronto on Saturday.

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