The Lady and the challenge
Malaysian-born actress Michelle Yeoh is renowned for having done her own stunts in the action films that launched her career. But it was a different kind of challenge she took on when she signed up to play Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi in The Lady. To play Suu Kyi, who has spent more than a decade under house arrest and gone on hunger strikes to protest military rule in Burma, Yeoh had to lose weight and learn to speak Burmese, she told a TIFF press conference Monday.
“Learning Mandarin was a piece of cake compared to Burmese,” said Yeoh, who delivers a speech in Burmese in the film.
She figured a bit of a strange accent would pass muster – Suu Kyi had spent years outside Burma, living in Britain, before her return in 1988 – but Yeoh said the real woman speaks English better than she does, and with a flawless British accent.
Yeoh met Suu Kyi in one of two brief visits to Burma after filming The Lady in nearby Thailand. She found the democracy leader and Nobel laureate full of confidence, humour and intense physical energy “I thought she would be Zen ... you couldn’t catch her and sit her down.”
Mindful that any discussion of the film might get Suu Kyi, released last year from another period of house arrest, into further trouble, they were careful not to discuss the film.
“This is a family visit,” Suu Kyi told Yeoh.
On Yeoh’s second attempt to visit Burma, she was turned away by authorities who would not let her enter the country.
Coppola’s personal film touches private pain
An unexpectedly raw emotional moment happened during the press conference for Frances Ford Coppola’s new film Twixt on Monday morning. The mind-bending Gothic tale involving a third-rate writer (Val Kilmer), a ghost (Elle Fanning) and the spirit of Edgar Allen Poe, includes a scene with a boating accident.
When asked about it, the 72-year-old director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now acknowledged that the scene was an allusion to the death of his son, Gian-Carlo Coppola, an actor and aspiring producer who was killed in 1986 at the age of 22 in a boating accident.
Coppola teared up, and his voice trembled when he spoke about how the film’s story brought him back to the experience.
“I believe that every film I work on now should be personal. One of the beauties of making a film is that you learn so much about what you’re working on. Making a film is like asking a question. On Tetro, I really learned a lot about my relationship with my older brother ... Every parent feels they are responsible for what happened to [their]kid. I didn't realize that I felt so responsible for what happened those 24 years ago.”
Coppola said his story told him that “it was time to own up that deep down in my heart I felt responsible and it took me there and I'm grateful that I could have that understanding. Whether I will feel better, I don't know.”
The director, who finished his latest film while attending his daughter Sofia’s marriage in Italy, said he has no interest in repeating himself as a filmmaker and has “less interest in making another Godfather movie than I have in this glass of water when I’m not thirsty.”
Steve McQueen isn’t silent about silent movies
He speaks in rapidly cerebral bursts, punctuated by an occasional stammer, and so, in one way, a conversation with Steve McQueen, director of Hunger and now Shame, is exactly like watching a McQueen film – seriously, illuminatingly intense. But, in another way, it’s not remotely alike because, well, we’re using words here and, on screen, he often doesn’t. The guy is a master at communicating without dialogue, at “subverting the form” by whisking the talk out of the talkies. Not surprisingly, then, the silent era is close to his heart. Fans of McQueen’s visual art will recall that famous installation he copped from a Buster Keaton flick. However, it’s not the deadpan comic whose work he keeps rewatching. His favourite silent movie star? A single word will do: “Valentino.” Yep, it’s an odd pairing, the Latin Lover and this Steve McQueen – or even that other McQueen.
What mystifies Ethan Hawke
It’s like a riddle wrapped in an enigma, right Ethan? Mr. Hawke, who plays the character Tom Ricks in film The Woman in the Fifth, offered a reporter on the red carpet this rather opaque summary of his role in the film on Sunday: “It's a very mysterious movie, a very mysterious role … The movie’s so mysterious I kind of hesitate to even say anything about it.” Oh, okay. But Hawke was much more conversational when it came to talking about TIFF, which he called “the peoples’ festival,” for its relatively relaxed atmosphere. “I love this festival,” he said. “Who doesn’t? I feel like every actor who comes through here must say that. It’s a special festival, a special vibe.”
After an awkward question, Seth steps in
Seth Rogen spared his co-stars embarrassing questions at the press conference for 50/50 on Monday.
One reporter raised the fact that in the movie Rogen’s character encourages his friend – who has cancer – to use his illness to pick up women. And then asked Bryce Dallas Howard and Anna Kendrick what “awkward pick-up moments” they’ve had in their lives.
“I’m just going to excuse the girls from having to answer that pick-up line question,” Rogen said.
The whole room laughed – including the cast members up on stage – and the press conference moved on. What with Clooney shooting down reporters and now Rogen, this TIFF is becoming proof that the best way to deal with questions stars don’t care for is flat out mockery.
An old-fashioned love song for Winnipeg?
The capital of Manitoba is definitely Paul Williams’s favourite town. The long-lost singer-songwriter and television personality from the 1970s is in town for Paul Williams Still Alive, a likable documentary and pop-culture flashback by Stephen Kessler that brings us up to date on the writer of hits An Old Fashioned Love Song and We’ve Only Just Begun. Winnipeg figures in the story; turns out the diminutive Williams is big there. “There’s something about the Canadian audiences that catches a side of what I do,” said Williams, well-remembered for his monkey business in Battle for the Planet of the Apes. “Does everybody in Winnipeg have that much better taste than the rest of the world?” Not sure about that, but bless his little heart for saying so.
Going to the dark places with Clive Owen
Intruders director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo didn’t want to reveal too much about his film, starring Clive Owen, before it screened on Monday – partly because it’s a psychological thriller, and partly because it can be quite the “pain in the ass” to have to listen about what’s going to be shown only a few minutes later.
But he did promise the film would take the audience back to the “darkest places of their childhood.” The film follows Owen as a father who cannot protect his daughter from faceless intruders, and blurs the lines between reality and the supernatural. “I really love those kind of [supernatural] movies, because I really believe those ghosts or monsters are coming from some kind of internal problems,” said Fresnadillo. “It’s a fantastic way to challenge the audience ... and the only way to deface those dark presences have to come within you.”
On working with Owen, Fresnadillo says the English actor brings a sense of normality to the film. “This is about an ordinary guy in an extraordinary situation, and Clive does that in such a great way. On the other hand, his hero presence is crucial for the movie ... and it drags you into this dark journey.”
Intruding at Holts?
Gary McKendry, director of Killer Elite, doesn’t pull any punches (or elbows or knees) when it comes to action scenes in his new film. It’s full of “lots of knees to the balls, elbows to the balls,” he told a reporter from Variety magazine during an interview at Holt Renfrew on Monday afternoon. The director, clad in a leather jacket and black T-shirt, seemed charmingly unnerved by the store’s fancy digs. Before his formal interview began, he leaned over to another reporter to confide, “I feel like a thug in here, like I broke in or something.”