Scenes from Amal
If there's one Canadian film attracting the most festival buzz, it's probably Amal, an Indian story about an auto-rickshaw driver filmed in New Delhi by Canadian director Richie Mehta for only $1.2-million. The phone hasn't stopped ringing. Mehta was scouted at the festival by Paramount studios. The lead actor, Toronto-based Rupinder Nagra, has been busy meetings with directors interested in having him in their next projects. Word is that he also met with the William Morris Agency.
Meanwhile, up-and-coming Canadian producer David Miller got a call on his cellphone from independent cinema heavyweight the Weinstein Company. Miller said he almost hung up thinking it was a joke. And all this happened before anyone even saw the film. Of course, actually watching the film is sometimes secondary.
Voice of an Angel
Ellen Burstyn is movie royalty, a six-time Academy Award-nominated star known for such films as The Last Picture Show, The Exorcist and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. At this year's festival, she's starring as Hagar Shipley in the Canadian adaptation of the Margaret Laurence classic, The Stone Angel. She took time out from promoting the film yesterday to do a reading at Indigo from her recent autobiography, Lessons in Becoming Myself, which deals with the 77-year-old actress's search for happiness through Sufi teachings after a series of embattled relationships, beginning with her abusive mother and including her third husband, who was dangerously mentally ill.
Burstyn did not become a star until her late 30s after working at Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio. She sought him out in the mid-sixties, she said, because "there were things that actresses like Geraldine Page and Kim Stanley could do that I couldn't and I wanted to know how they did them." The theatre training became a form of personal therapy.
"It's a form of acting that depends on you being conscious of what is happening inside you so you can access it. You find a resonance between the character and your own experience. It's such an interesting paradox that we're all unique individuals and at deeper level, we're all the same. You can work from the level of difference, which a lot of actors do, and they use their idiosyncrasy and personality and that can be fun to watch. But they don't make that deep connection, where the audience feels what the actor is feeling."
Does a rocky personal life go along with great acting? Burstyn thinks so: "Most of the actors I know come from unhappy homes. I know a couple of actors who came from happy backgrounds but most of the really good ones come from a very emotionally negligent background. I think there's something in that negligence that leads to reaching out for a connection and love and acceptance, to try to find what was missing."
A time traveler's life
Thanks to the miracle of time travel, Eric Bana was able to be in two places at once this week. Well, sort of. Last weekend the Australian actor began shooting the adaptation of the 2004 best-selling novel The Time Traveler's Wife here in town. The timing allowed him to attend the North American premiere on Wednesday of Romulus, My Father.
This year's top domestic grosser at the Aussie box office, it will be released in Canada through Alliance Atlantis.
The feature directorial debut of blue-eyed Australian actor Richard Roxburgh (Mission: Impossible II), Romulus is a beautiful, rural immigrant story with some tragic turns, based on the memoir by Australian moral philosopher Raimond Gaita, which was a 1999 bestseller Down Under.
Bana, who lives in Melbourne but has moved his family here for the three-month shoot, says Romulus, a motorcycle-driving Romanian immigrant farmer, and Henry De Tamble, the Chicago librarian with a genetic disorder that makes him time travel, are both roles of a type that rarely come his way. The star of Ang Lee's Hulk and Steven Spielberg's Munich says: "I don't mind killing people, but it's great to get a crack at roles like these that are more challenging emotionally."
Bacall loves her Timbits
It wasn't just an interview, it was like being ushered into a presence. And two of the reporters waiting in the small anteroom outside screen legend Lauren Bacall's suite openly admitted they were "terrified," their jittery state only made worse when a tall blond publicist came out and asked us to go stand in the hallway because the noise we were making was upsetting the 82-year-old actress. "She's very upset; she doesn't like the noise."
But Bacall one-on-one is anything but domineering and not remotely crotchety. More like regal, forthright and downright hilarious. Sitting on a chair, with her seven-year old papillon, Sophie, darting around her feet, Bacall, who stars in Paul Schrader's thriller The Walker, has been delivered a snack.
"If I lived here, I'd be an elephant," she said, referring to the honey-dipped Timbit she just popped into her mouth. "I simply adore these doughnut holes," she laughed. "And the guys on the corner with steel carts make the best street dogs anywhere. I adore the long ones with the buns with poppy seeds."
After an interview where she discussed the lack of roles for women, the fact that men shouldn't have facelifts, and that Jack Nicholson is one of the last great, true stars, the actress was asked what she would like for lunch. She ordered a street dog.
Scores of journalists were less than impressed by English director Joe Wright after he abruptly pulled the chute on an afternoon of interviews on his period drama Atonement.
While his stars Keira Knightley and James McAvoy gamely conducted a revolving door of interviews in neighbouring suites, Wright did two interviews before he abruptly left the building. A publicist apologetically explained to waiting journalists that the director - just here from Venice - was "exhausted." Staff