Toronto 2011: Harvey Weinstein carves ‘Butter’ into political statement

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It wasn’t enough for Harvey Weinstein to unveil his new movie, ‘Butter,’ at the Toronto International Film Festival’s largest theater, Roy Thomson Hall, on Tuesday night. The film stars Jennifer Garner and treads lightly into political satire. But in a classic move from the Weinstein promotional playbook, ‘Butter’ was served up with a saucy, quasi-incendiary statement from the studio chief -- in what seemed to be a blatant effort to make the movie into something people will be talking about.

Though Weinstein was in the theater, he chose to have one of the film’s actresses, Olivia Wilde, deliver a statement on his behalf to the crowd of more than 2,000 people. After reading through some typical pleasantries, Wilde said: ‘In 20 years of coming to the Toronto Film Festival, I’ve never released a statement for a film. But I would like to take this moment to formally invite Republican congresswoman from Minnesota and Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann to co-host with me the big premiere of ‘Butter’ in Iowa in a few months from now.’

The statement continued: ‘I know Michele will already be in Iowa for the caucus, so we can save some money on airfare and travel. I would of course be more than happy to fly in the other leading members of the ‘tea party’ movement to make an entire day of it. We could take some math classes in the morning to help balance the budget, brush up on the Constitution in the afternoon, play some ping-pong and then maybe some verbal ping-pong on gay rights and women’s rights (especially the right to choose).

‘But at night we can all go hand-in-hand to the premiere of ‘Butter,’ a fun and important film where we’ll share some popcorn and laughs. These are the kind of bipartisan efforts that make America great. I look forward to hearing from Michele and I’m particularly looking forward to those classes on the Constitution. All my best, Harvey.’ The statement elicited laughter and surprise from the audience, but also elicited chatter -- why couldn’t Weinstein just let the movie speak for itself? Odd things have been happening with this film during the festival: All of the initial media and industry screenings were cancelled, as was a news conference that was originally supposed to be held Tuesday. None of the ‘Butter’ representatives would explain the developments on the record. But sources, who asked to remain anonymous because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly, said Weinstein started re-cutting the film, directed by Jim Field Smith, after it premiered to mixed response at the Telluride Film Festival over Labor Day weekend.


The release date for the movie has not yet been set, but considering Weinstein is inviting Bachmann to the premiere in Iowa, he’s got about a good five months to keep this film in the public’s consciousness. (Some sources say the studio is considering a one-week ‘qualifying’ run late this year, before a general release in late winter/early spring.)

In the foyer after the screening, Weinstein seemed very proud of his statement, especially the fact that he didn’t deliver the words himself, but had the striking Wilde do the deed. He then walked off to his black SUV, which would transport him to the annual party thrown by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. -- the group that hands out the Golden Globes.

‘Now we’ve got to go kiss the HFPA’s [butt],’ he grumbled.


Jennifer Garner spreads ‘Butter’ at the Telluride Film Festival

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-- Nicole Sperling in Toronto