‘Green Book’ tops ‘If Beale Street Could Talk,’ ‘Roma’ for TIFF People’s Choice Award
“Green Book” was awarded the Grolsch People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, cementing it as one to watch during the upcoming awards season.
Peter Farrelly’s Deep South road trip movie starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, which was recently acquired by Universal, beat out first runner-up “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Barry Jenkins’ James Baldwin adaptation, which Annapurna will release in November, and second runner-up Alfonso Cuarón’s neo-realistic drama “Roma,” which Netflix will open in December.
The People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award went to Vasan Bala’s “The Man Who Feels No Pain.” David Gordon Green’s “Halloween” was the first runner-up and Sam Levinson’s “Assassination Nation” was the second runner-up.
E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s “Free Solo” won the people’s choice documentary award, beating out Tom Donahue’s “This Changes Everything” and John Chester’s “The Biggest Little Farm,” which won first and second runner-up awards, respectively.
The festival’s platform prize was unanimously awarded to Wi Ding Ho’s “Cities of Last Things,” which the jury called a “deeply moving drama.” Emir Baigazin’s “The River” was awarded an honorable mention.
The Prize of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) for the Discovery program was awarded to Carmel Winters for “Float Like a Butterfly,” which the jury called a “pastoral and traditional bucolic film.” An honorable mention was awarded to Laura Luchetti’s “Twin Flower.”
The FIPRESCI prize for special presentations went to Guy Nattiv for “Skin,” which the jury described as “raw, yet intelligently paced, with stunning performances.” An honorable mention went to Louis Garrel’s “A Faithful Man.”
Other awards went to Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian’s “Fig Tree,” which won the Eurimages Audentia Award, Ash Mayfair’s “The Third Wife,” which won the NETPAC Award, Sébastien Pilote’s “The Fireflies Are Gone,” which was awarded the Canada Goose Award for best Canadian Feature Film, and Katherine Jerkovic’s “Roads in February,” which took home the prize for best Canadian first feature film.
Among the notable short films were Meryam Joobeur’s “Brotherhood,” which won best Canadian short film and Sandhya Suri’s “The Field,” which was awarded best short film.
From ‘Widows’ to ‘Burning,’ this year’s Toronto International Film Festival offered a bounty of memorable movies
The Telluride, Toronto and Venice film festivals have ended, meaning that most of the movies vying for attention this awards season have been seen and sussed. Times critics Justin Chang and Glenn Whipp, who were both in Toronto, discuss the films they saw and which movies they think we’ll be dissecting and debating for the next six months.
GLENN WHIPP: On our first full day here, I was seated in a theater, about to watch Lee Chang-dong’s provocative mystery “Burning” (which should definitely, finally, earn South Korea its first foreign-language feature nomination), when the Motion Picture Academy sent out an email blast announcing it had shelved the unpopular popular-film Oscar for this year and, hopefully, forever.
And while we didn’t need any more evidence to know that this proposed Oscar category would have created a pointless division between “popular” filmmaking and artistic achievement, many of the movies that played at Toronto and the other fall festivals offered plenty of additional proof.
Elisabeth Moss and Alex Ross Perry on underestimating ‘Her Smell’
Elisabeth Moss and director Alex Ross Perry talk about the “exhausting” shooting schedule behind the rocker drama "Her Smell.” Says Moss, "it was much more challenging that I thought it was going to be.”
For the movie “Her Smell,” which had its world premiere as part of the Toronto International Film Festival, writer-director Alex Ross Perry and actress Elisabeth Moss pushed their ongoing collaboration to new places.
Having previously worked together on “Listen Up Philip” and “Queen of Earth” the pair created something unique with the character or Becky Something, a ’90s rock star at the dizzying height of her wild behavior, notoriety and addictions, and then later in the calm of her sobriety and new-found self-awareness.
The movie has an unusual structure consisting of five extended sequences that capture Becky at pivotal moments. With long-take scenes of fast-paced dialogue, many characters coming in and out and an agitated style, making the movie proved to be a welcome challenge for both of them.
Moss had only one week between finishing the second season of her television series “The Handmaid’s Tale” before jumping into production on “Her Smell.”
“I think I underestimated it,” she said of what the role took out of her. “I got thrown in, in a way, and it was definitely much more exhausting than I thought it was going to be. Just the dialogue alone and the speed, we kept trying to go faster and faster and faster.”
“And every scene is 25 minutes long and every day of filming was eight to 14 pages,” added Perry. “And generally it was being done not a shot at a time but seven, eight, nine minutes at a time.”
Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan and more stars play a friendly game of word association
What’s the first thing these filmmakers and actors think when they hear the words...
What are two words that strike fear into the hearts of those who work in Hollywood? “Film critics.”
So when a friendly game of word association went down at the Los Angeles Times’ photo and video studio at the 2018 Toronto International Film Studio, we had to get actors and filmmakers’ honest (and instant!) reactions on the topic.
Watch the full video to see what Natalie Portman, Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Barry Jenkins, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Olivia Wilde, Brian Tyree Henry, Claire Foy, Regina Hall, Geena Davis, Amandla Sternberg and many more had to say about critics, the Oscars and more.
Why Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem think it would be ‘risky’ to make too many films together
The real-life husband and wife talk about sharing the screen in “Everybody Knows” and how soon they might work together again. Plus, director Asghar Farhadi sheds light on what it was like working with the couple.
Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem have acted in four films together since they became a couple roughly a decade ago. But any more than that might have caused trouble in their relationship, the actress said.
“We’re not planning to do this every year -- it would be risky,” said Cruz, who was at the Toronto International Film Festival to promote “Everybody Knows,” her latest film with her husband. “I think it would be risky for any couple to make a movie every year. It wouldn’t make sense. But I think it also wouldn’t make sense to force it in the opposite direction and say no to something like this.”
This was the opportunity to work with Oscar-winning Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, who learned Spanish just so he could memorize all the lines of dialogue in the kidnapping drama, which premiered earlier this year at the Cannes film festival.
“When they came to the set, everything was very professional,” Farhadi said of his married co-stars. “Being a couple didn’t affect anything, and this is amazing. You make a line between your job and your reality. They did very well.”
Justin Chang’s festival diary: Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Roma’ and other riches from Venice enthrall TIFF
You could feel the excitement in the air before the packed Toronto premiere of “Roma,” the much-anticipated new movie directed by Alfonso Cuarón. A beautifully composed memory piece that conjures the faded Mexico City of the director’s 1970s childhood, the film was easily one of this 10-day event’s most breathlessly anticipated attractions. “Roma” arrived having already earned rapturous reviews at festivals in Telluride, Colo., and Venice, where, mere days earlier, it had won the Golden Lion, the top prize.
The bestower of that prize was the director Guillermo del Toro, Cuarón’s pal and countryman, who served as the president of the Venice competition jury. (Del Toro promised beforehand not to do any friendly favors for Cuarón’s film, and “Roma’s” unanimously glowing reception certainly made the choice beyond reproach.) Notably, Del Toro himself had won the Golden Lion just a year earlier for his period fantasy “The Shape of Water,” the first piece of hardware he collected en route to winning the Academy Award for best picture.
None of this necessarily means that the Golden Lion has suddenly become some hot new harbinger of awards-season glory; this is a prize, after all, that has in the past gone to more recondite pictures such as Alexander Sokurov’s “Faust,” Gianfranco Rosi’s “Sacro GRA” and Lav Diaz’s “The Woman Who Left,” none of which were made with dreams of Oscar in mind.
From Lady Gaga to ‘Beale Street’ to ‘Roma,’ the best and buzziest films of the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival
From “A Star Is Born” to “Halloween” to “Widows,” Times writers Justin Chang and Jen Yamato discuss the standout films at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.
With a lineup boasting everything from Alfonso Cuarón’s Oscar-tipped “Roma” (ro-ma-ma) to the sheer star power of Lady Gaga (ooh-la-la), the 2018 Toronto International Film Fest was a starry-eyed cinephile’s dream.
The annual Toronto fest played host to high-profile launches of Oscar hopefuls from Gaga’s musical vehicle “A Star Is Born” to the Viola Davis-starring “Widows” to Barry Jenkins’ Harlem-set follow up to “Moonlight,” “If Beale Street Could Talk.”
In between all the prestige fare eyeing awards season runs there was much more to behold, absorb, digest and discuss, including a near-unrecognizable Nicole Kidman in Karyn Kusama’s L.A. noir “Destroyer,” the return of Michael Myers (and Jamie Lee Curtis) in a new “Halloween,” and the space hijinx of Claire Denis’ “High Life.”
From the Los Angeles Times studio at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, Times writers Justin Chang and Jen Yamato discuss the standout films of the fest.
Why Aaron Taylor-Johnson decided to do full-frontal nudity in ‘A Million Little Pieces’
Real-life couple Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Sam Taylor-Johnson talk about adapting James Frey’s book and why they felt including a full-frontal nudity scene “hit the right tone.”
In 2006, after Oprah Winfrey selected his book as one of her book club picks, James Frey acknowledged on the talk show host’s program that he had fabricated much of his so-called memoir, “A Million Little Pieces.”
The book delved into Frey’s alcohol and drug addictions, which he said caused him legal trouble and eventually sent him to rehab. It was eventually shopped as a novel before being purchased by Random House.
Despite the controversy, however, director Sam Taylor-Johnson and her husband, actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson, decided the story depicted in the book was still worthy of a film.
“For us, it was just to kind of adapt the book and that story and stick close to that,” said Aaron, who plays Frey in the film. “And in that is a real beautiful journey of a broken man trying to find redemption — going from dark to light.”
The actor’s portrayal in the film is often harrowing, starting out with an opening scene of Frey flailing about while on a drug trip with his pants off. The nude scene was filmed on the first day of the shoot, the couple said.
“It was like, ‘Nice to meet you!’ to the crew and then straight in,” Sam said with a smile.
“There was something kind of therapeutic in that respect as well,” Aaron added. “Here we are, day one, you couldn’t be any more vulnerable anyway, and it just felt like the right tone. How do you show him in the first act as a broken shell of a man who has completely lost their way and lost all control of their inhibitions?”
Steven Yeun and Lee Chang-dong explore identity in ‘Burning’
“The Walking Dead” grad Steven Yeun and director Lee Chang-dong talk about why it was important to film “Burning” in Korea and how it changed Yeun’s approach to the part.
“Burning,” the first new film from South Korean writer-director Lee Chang-dong since his acclaimed 2010 film “Poetry,” has arrived on a wave of high expectations. When “Burning” premiered earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival, Los Angeles Times critic Justin Chang called it “a quietly riveting stunner.”
The movie was also recently chosen to represent South Korea for this year’s foreign-language Academy Award, a prize for which the country had not even been nominated before.
Adapted from a short story by Haruki Murakami, “Burning” is about a young man named Jongsu (Yoo Ah-in) who reunites with a woman he grew up with, Haemi (Jun Jong-seo). Just as the two seem to be becoming more than just friends, she leaves for a trip to Africa. When she returns, she is with Ben (Steven Yeun), a mysterious and mysteriously rich young man. Jongsu is consumed by feelings of jealousy and suspicion, and the story shifts into the mode of a thriller.
Yeun and Lee stopped by the Los Angeles Times photo studio during the Toronto International Film Festival. For Yeun, who was also in last year’s “Okja” for director Bong Joon Ho, the film provided another opportunity to explore aspects of his own identity and talent in ways that he cannot when working on projects in the United States.
“It was such a wonderful experience for me,” Yeun said, “because I realized the distinction of what it feels like to be a full person without the shroud of maybe having to explain what you look like to the audience, on top of your character, instead you’re just the character in Korea.
“Whereas in America, whether it’s embedded in the code of the script or just what it is in our lives to live in our society,” he added, “you kind of have to explain yourself or justify why an Asian person would be in this scenario or this character. And that’s a layer that’s just completely removed and so that was a really wonderful experience in that way. And now I just hope to replicate that feeling over here.”
‘If Beale Street Could Talk’: Barry Jenkins on staying faithful to James Baldwin and the #MeToo impact
James Baldwin means different things to different people.
To some, Baldwin is the prototype of the artist as activist, his writing an example of how to battle injustice and prejudice against black people in America. To others, he’s one of the foremost purveyors of the black experience, his mastery of language precisely capturing what life was, and is, like for African Americans in an oppressive society.
Those two aspects are forcefully represented in Baldwin’s 1974 novel “If Beale Street Could Talk,” noted Barry Jenkins, the Oscar-winning filmmaker of “Moonlight,” and a reason why he wanted to adapt the book for the screen.
“Mr. Baldwin has many different modes,” Jenkins said. “One of those modes is the protest, the anger. And then there’s the lush, the romantic, the hopeful. I think with ‘If Beale Street Could Talk,’ you find the best pairing and balancing of those two things. It was a challenge worth undertaking.”
How Yorgos Lanthimos helped cast the lead in Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, ‘Mid90s’
Jonah Hill discusses why it took four years for his directorial debut to get made and “Mid90s” stars Sunny Suljic and Na-Kel Smith shine some light on his directorial style.
Jonah Hill: actor, screenwriter, director ... skateboarder?
Yes, growing up in Southern California, Hill found solace on his board in skate parks. So for the past four years, he’s been working on channeling his teenage skating experience into his directorial debut, “Mid90s.”
“It’s always been like, if I was angry or sad or something, I always had this thing to go work on,” Hill, 34, said of the film.
“Mid90s” tells the story of a 13-year-old boy (Sunny Suljic) who is trying to find his tribe. His big brother (Lucas Hedges) constantly beats him up and won’t hang out with him, so he takes to the streets, where he falls in with a crowd of older skateboarders who love to party.
Hill first saw Suljic at a skate park and thought: “That’s the dude,” he told The Times. “I was like, ‘Have you ever thought about acting?’ And he was like, ‘Dog, I was in some movie, dog. Some guy named Yorgos .... He’s chill, he’s chill.’”
That would be Yorgos Lanthimos, the award-winning filmmaker behind “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” which young Suljic had a role in last year. Once he found out about Suljic’s background, Hill called up Lanthimos for some guidance.
“I was like, ‘What’s up with Sunny Suljic?’” Hill recalled. “And he was like, ‘Hire him today. He’s a genius.’”
Despite poor reviews, ‘Life Itself’ is ‘greatest screenplay’ he’s ever read, Mandy Patinkin says
Stars Olivia Wilde and Mandy Patinkin break down the “complicated” ensemble drama from “This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman. Patinkin says it has “the greatest screenplay I’ve ever read.”
Dan Fogelman’s NBC show “This Is Us” is a critical darling, but reviewers have not been as kind to his new film “Life Itself.”
The ensemble drama, which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival this week, has been skewered by the handful of film critics who have reviewed it so far, notching only a 21% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
That’s of little consequence to Mandy Patinkin, however. The actor -- who joins Olivia Wilde, Oscar Isaac, Antonio Banderas and Annette Bening in the large cast -- said the script “blew his mind” when he first read it.
“I said, ‘I think this is the greatest screenplay I’ve ever read in my life,’” said Patinkin. “[Dan’s] genius, his ability to touch the human heart, to connect humanity globally -- I don’t know what more you could ask for at this moment in time.”
Wilde noted that the screenplay had been ranked highly on the Black List, an industry list of unproduced scripts.
“Typically, things that are so desperate for your emotions -- that are really begging for you to feel things -- don’t work on me,” the actress said of the film, which tracks a number of stories that eventually intersect. “I think the reason Dan’s work works on me is because he doesn’t shy away from the heartbreaking nature of life.”
“It’s kind of a litmus test for where you live emotionally,” Fogelman added. “It would probably be difficult to be married successfully to someone who hated this film if you loved this film.”
“But I don’t want you to be afraid, if you’re listening out there, if you don’t like something your spouse likes!” Patinkin, who has been married to his wife for 38 years, interjected. “You can still be together!”
Robert Pattinson fulfills a life goal working with Claire Denis on ‘High Life’
Robert Pattinson stars in French director Claire Denis’ first English-language film, “High Life,” an erotic space odyssey co-starring Mia Goth and Juliette Binoche. Pattinson, Denis and Goth discuss the film at the Los Angeles Times studio at the To
Filmmaker Claire Denis is a longtime favorite on the international festival circuit who stands to reach a whole new audience with “High Life.” The movie is her first in English, her first science fiction film and has a cast that includes Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Mia Goth and André Benjamin.
The story revolves around a group of death row inmates jettisoned into space on a craft that will not return. One thing leads to another and a man (Pattinson) finds himself the last survivor on the ship, save for the baby girl that he has fathered.
Denis, Pattinson and Goth stopped by the LA Times photo studio in Toronto to talk about the film, which is having its world premiere at TIFF and was acquired for theatrical release by A24.
If the story sounds out-there, Pattinson says not to worry. He committed to the project simply for the opportunity to work with Denis, and thinks audiences should trust her too.
“The thing I like about her movies is each of her movies feel like a world unto themselves,” Pattinson said, “and anyone can watch her movies and not quite understand how she manages to structure them in terms of the pacing and the characterization. There’s a logic and a sense there that’s very much her own.
“So it was weirdly easier than most projects because there’s a lack of anxiety. It feels like you’re in very confident hands when you’re working with her.”
‘Wildlife’ unites Paul Dano and Carey Mulligan for the story of a family coming apart
Writer-director Paul Dano pulls back the curtain on the process of developing the “Wildlife” story and actress Carey Mulligan talks about relating to her character at the Los Angeles Times studio at the Toronto International Film Festival.
“Wildlife” marks actor Paul Dano’s debut as a director and screenwriter. With a galvanizing performance by Carey Mulligan, alongside Jake Gyllenhaal, Bill Camp and Ed Oxenbould, the film tells the story of a family in 1960s Montana coming apart in the face of a father’s dashed ambitions and a mother’s reinvigorated sense of self.
When Dano and Mulligan stopped by the L.A. Times studio at the Toronto International Film Festival, he talked about the filmmaker writing the adaption of Richard Ford’s novel in collaboration with Dano’s real-life partner, actress and writer Zoe Kazan. He was drawn to what he called the “spare, strong, kind of lean” style of Richard Ford’s writing.
“Zoe just kind of tore apart my first draft and destroyed all my confidence as a first-time writer and was like, ‘Why don’t you let me do a pass?’ and I said, ‘Great,’” Dano said. “And then we just traded it back and forth. So we never wrote in the same room ever, we’d sit down and talk for like two hours and then one of us would take it. It was actually a great way to work. I don’t know if she would do it again, I would definitely do it again.”
Mulligan likened her character’s story to hearing a song you listened to when you were younger and going through a breakup – for her it was Coldplay’s “Fix You” – and being thrown back into those old emotions.
“It suddenly takes you straight back to that moment and you have that feeling of like whiplash, where you think, ‘Where did those years go? That’s crazy. Now I’m this grown up and I have children and my whole life has taken this route,’” she said. “So she’s just trying out all these different versions of who she might have been had her life taken a different path, and that’s the bit that was so exciting for me.”
Ryan Gosling and Damien Chazelle on their visually dazzling journey to space in ‘First Man’
“La La Land” star Ryan Gosling and Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle are back together for a very different kind of story: a bio-pic about Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. “The Crown” star Claire Foy plays Armstrong’s wife in
“La La Land” star Ryan Gosling and Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle are back together for a very different kind of story: a bio-pic about Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.
“The Crown” star Claire Foy plays Armstrong’s wife in the visually dazzling movie that puts audiences directly into space, and grounds them in the Armstrongs’ troubled home life as well.
When the trio sat down to chat at the Los Angeles Times studio at the Toronto International Film Festival, they discussed Chazelle’s approach to filming space in a way moviegoers haven’t quite seen before. And how the project truly took flight before anyone even saw “La La Land.”
“First Man,” which made its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival before playing TIFF, will open in theaters nationwide on Oct. 12.
Barry Jenkins, Amandla Stenberg, Natalie Portman and more reveal the change they want to see in Hollywood
In the Los Angeles Times photo and video studio at the Toronto International Film Festival, we asked filmmakers and actors including Steve McQueen, Barry Jenkins, Amandla Stenberg, Jeffrey Wright, Melissa McCarthy, Penelope Cruz, Kelly Marie Tran, N
Change has been a growing subject of discussion in Hollywood as the industry has grappled with movements such as #OscarsSoWhite and #MeToo.
So when top Hollywood talent stopped by the Los Angeles Times photo and video studio during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, we asked the stars and filmmakers themselves what change they’d most like to see in the industry.
Not surprisingly, directors including Steve McQueen and Barry Jenkins and talent such as Amandla Stenberg, Jeffrey Wright, Melissa McCarthy, Penelope Cruz, Kelly Marie Tran, Natalie Portman, Olivia Wilde, Geena Davis, Carey Mulligan, Liam Neeson and Brian Tyree Henry had lots to say on the subject.
Watch the video above to find out their responses.
Cast members of ‘The Weekend’ describe working with legendary Kym Whitley
Director Stella Meghie and “The Weekend” cast discuss their breakout black rom-com at the Toronto International Film Festival. The cast includes “Saturday Night Live’s" Sasheer Zamata, “Insecure’s” Y’lan Noel and “She’s Gotta Have It’s” DeWanda Wise
There’sIno doubt that Stella Meghie’s “The Weekend” is chock full of up-and-coming actors. There’s “Saturday Night Live” alum Sasheer Zamata in the leading role along with “She’s Gotta Have It’s” DeWanda Wise, “Insecure’s” and “The First Purge’s” Y’lan Noel and “Disjointed’s” Tone Bell.
But despite the fresher energy they all bring, respect is paid to the veteran of their cast, Kym Whitley. When asked about working with the comedic heavyweight, one word came to mind: “Joy.”
‘Roma’ cast members discuss working with Alfonso Cuarón
Nancy Garcia, Marina de Tavira and Yalitza Aparicio discuss working with Alfonso Cuarón on Netflix’s “Roma,” which won the top prize at the 2018 Venice Film Festival and is generating major awards season buzz.
One of the films with the biggest Oscar buzz at the Toronto International Film Festival is Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma,” fresh off its award-winning debut at the Venice Film Festival. Its three stars, Nancy Garcia, Marina de Tavira and Yalitza Aparicio, stopped by the Los Angeles Times film and video studio to discuss working with Cuarón.
“It was incredible for me because to start, I didn’t know, not even in my wildest dreams, I’d ever get to do a project like this,” said Garcia. “To work alongside Alfonso, having him help, encourage and motivate me to get the best out of me, I think that was incredible.”
De Tavira added: “For me it was a really transforming experience because I was the only actress in the cast. I was working with non-actors and contrary to what you can think, it was me that had to get in the mood that they were all working [in]... Alfonso was asking me to not think as an actress but as a character and I think, this sounds easy, but it’s not.”
And despite all of the acclaim being thrown Cuarón’s way for his writing and directing, Aparicio hopes audiences “don’t ignore all the messages he gives” in the film, “with inequality in gender, race social class and also with all the political problems there are,” she said.
Viola Davis on ‘slaying dragons’ and defying Hollywood expectations in ‘Widows’: ‘It cost me something to be me’
“Widows” stars Michelle Rodriguez, Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo discuss how the Steve McQueen-directed heist thriller allowed them to defy Hollywood’s expectations of female actors: “Sometimes you get a role that helps you to sla
Hollywood knows Viola Davis as a fierce force to be reckoned with. Just one Grammy shy of the EGOT and positioned to score more awards consideration for her turn in Steve McQueen’s Nov. 16 heist thriller “Widows,” she’s one of the industry’s most commanding stars.
But, Davis revealed at the L.A. Times studio at the Toronto International Film Festival, making the role her own meant peeling back layers of toughness to find “a level of femininity and vulnerability” that Hollywood has not historically seen in her.
“I don’t get to play roles in movies where I am rolling around in bed with Liam Neeson,” Davis said with a laugh in the Times studio, flanked by her “Widows” costars Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo and Michelle Rodriguez.
All four praised the McQueen film, co-scripted by the director with novelist and screenwriter Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”), for granting them the rare opportunity to step out of the boxes the industry might otherwise keep them in.
“Sometimes you get a role that helps you to slay certain dragons in your own life, just certain obstacles, and this was one of those roles for me,” Davis said. “It just was a transformative role, a role for me to go to another level of vulnerability.”
Rodriguez, best known for her roles in action films like “Avatar” and the “Fast and the Furious” franchise, plays Linda, a mother who, following the lead of Davis’s Veronica, joins a team of grieving widows to pull off the heist their late husbands planned.
“Widows” “was a complete, sheer, utter departure from the one-liners and action flicks that I had been doing for the past 15 years,” Rodriguez said. “It was an opportunity for me to explore the vulnerability of femininity — something that I’ve been running from and scared of for so many years.”
“With me, there’s a level of femininity and vulnerability in Veronica that people don’t usually see me as,” said Davis, whose lead role was not originally written for a woman of color. “They see me as a tough one, someone that can get the job done. In order for me to play that, I had to forget about how Hollywood would have seen the role.”
“But I have to say that it cost me something,” she added. Preparing for a love scene with onscreen husband Neeson, Davis found herself self-consciously worrying about her character’s appearance. “’There’s a love scene with Liam Neeson, so I’ve got to do something with my hair,’” she remembers telling McQueen.
“And Steve said, ‘No. You wear your hair. I want you to wear your hair.’ And it cost me something to be me — how I look, in this role, that Hollywood wouldn’t normally cast me in.”
Elisabeth Moss and Alex Ross Perry challenge themselves and the audience with ‘Her Smell’
This year’s Toronto International Film Festival has an unexpected onslaught of movies centered around female singers. There’s the splashy “A Star Is Born,” starring Lady Gaga, the headier “Vox Lux” with Natalie Portman, the rootsy “Wild Rose” featuring a breakout turn by Jessie Buckley and the yearning “Teen Spirit,” with Elle Fanning.
And then there is “Her Smell,” a wild, churning character study like no other starring Elisabeth Moss as Becky Something, the leader of a fictional ’90s rock group called Something She.
Just like its lead character, the film is aggressive and purposefully obnoxious. It more or less dares an audience to live through its forceful, unrelenting energy — and the self-destructive, pushy pitch of Moss’ performance — for most of the two-hour-plus running time to ultimately get to a place of serenity, self-knowledge and grace.
Celebrity Polaroids revealed: Get a closer look at the development process
A timelapse video shows Polaroids developing at the Los Angeles Times’ photo and video studio at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.
Thanks to the popularity of social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, photography is all about speed these days. But remember when you used to have to actually wait for a photo to develop?
This year at the Toronto International Film Festival, the L.A. Times took a page from the old days by having A-list celebs such as Chris Pine and Olivia Wilde pose for Polaroids (signed by the stars, no less).
The full gallery of signed photos are here for your viewing pleasure, and The Times is also pulling the curtain back on the development process — for those who either don’t remember or just don’t know — with this fun timelapse video. Click play on the video above to see all the action up close.
Elizabeth Olsen and Kelly Marie Tran’s Facebook series ‘Sorry for Your Loss’ hopes to spark important conversations around grief
“Sorry for Your Loss” stars Elizabeth Olsen, Kelly Marie Tran and Mamoudou Athie discuss the Facebook Watch series about loss, grief and moving on.
Grief, and the multitude of emotions that come with it, form the complex terrain of “Sorry for Your Loss,” starring Elizabeth Olsen as Leigh, a woman struggling to cope with the death of her husband.
At the Toronto International Film Festival to debut the first four episodes with director James Ponsoldt and creator Kit Steinkellner, stars Olsen, Kelly Marie Tran and Mamoudou Athie discussed the drama series debuting Sept. 18 on Facebook Watch.
“What Kit always says is, if you’re going to tell a story about grief and loss and death, you’re ultimately going to tell a story about how amazing it is, and how lucky we are, to be alive,” Olsen said.
“I think everybody knows someone who is dealing with or has suffered from depression, and you can’t always tell — it’s just not always apparent,” said Athie, who plays Leigh’s late husband, Matt. “The script just had a very compassionate and also honest view of it.”
Tran was attracted to the project by its potential to spark necessary conversations around loss.
“What personally drew me to it was the idea that grief is sort of this universal thing that everybody has to deal with, and we just don’t really talk about it that much,” she said. “We don’t know how to deal with it.”
“These characters, for me, are really trying to figure that out in a really interesting and authentic way. Human beings are so messy and complicated … and even if we’re dealing with something hard, everyone’s going to deal with it in a different way.”
Melissa McCarthy and the cast of ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ on not softening the rough edges
Melissa McCarthy’s critically acclaimed star turn in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” shows the actress in a new light. She discusses the film at the L.A. Times photo studio at the Toronto International Film Festival with co-stars Richard E. Grant, Christ
A struggling writer finds her voice by forging the letters of famous literary figures in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” a true story based on the life of Lee Israel. Directed by Marielle Heller from a screenplay by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, based on the memoir by Israel, the film stars Melissa McCarthy in a role that has already earned fantastic reviews and awards buzz.
McCarthy stopped by the L.A. Times studio at the Toronto International Film Festival along with co-stars Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells and Christian Navarro to talk about the film.
Israel is a curmudgeon of the highest order, and McCarthy captures both the sweet and the sour in a character who makes no concessions to others.
“I think to try to soften Lee would be like going against the point of the whole story,” said McCarthy. “She was unapologetically who she was. I think it’s what makes her so fascinating; I think it’s also what makes her lovable. I don’t know if she would like me saying that I find her very lovable, but I certainly fell in love with her. I think that’s one of the greatest takeaways. She simply was who she was and she wasn’t going to change.”
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” opens theatrically Oct. 19.
With the gay-conversion therapy drama ‘Boy Erased,’ Joel Edgerton hopes to stir hearts and change minds
After making a splash with his 2015 directorial debut, the dark, unnerving thriller “The Gift,” Joel Edgerton got sent his fair share of suspense scripts. But true to his unpredictable form, the Australian actor turned filmmaker wanted to go in a completely different direction with his next project.
“A large part of what the film business is about is following in the footsteps of something that seems to work, but I’ve never had that attitude as an actor,” Edgerton, 44, said earlier this month at the Telluride Film Festival, where his latest film, the gay-conversion therapy drama “Boy Erased,” made its world premiere. “For my next project after ‘The Gift,’ I wanted to put something positive and moving into the world.”
Based on the memoir by Garrard Conley, “Boy Erased” stars Lucas Hedges as a young man who is pressured by his deeply religious Baptist parents (played by Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman) into entering gay-conversion therapy. Slated to hit theaters in the heart of awards season, on Nov. 2, the film has already earned kudos for its emotionally wrenching look at a family being pulled apart over conflicting beliefs and the strong central performances of Hedges, Kidman and Crowe.
Stella Meghie and Sasheer Zamata revive the black rom-com with ‘The Weekend’
Back in the day — think late ’90s, early 2000s — romantic comedies and dramas with black ensembles were around every release corner.
Stella Meghie’s “The Weekend,” premiering Tuesday at the Toronto International Film Festival, revives the tradition.
Starring “Saturday Night Live” alum Sasheer Zamata, “The Weekend” follows a comedian who takes a weekend trip to her parent’s bed-and-breakfast with her ex (Tone Bell, “Disjointed”) and his new girlfriend (DeWanda Wise, “She’s Gotta Have It”) in tow. While there, she meets a new potential bae in another guest, played by Y’lan Noel (“Insecure,” “The First Purge”).
“The cast is that age group that has been missing of young black actors who are all poppin’ and all really poised for major breakouts,” said Meghie. “That’s what was happening back then and it is happening again now. I happy to work alongside them and have our careers build at the same time.”
Natalie Portman on playing a ‘private girl in a public world’ in ‘Vox Lux’
Natalie Portman and Brady Corbet discuss "Vox Lux," their heady poem of celebrity, violence and pop music.
Writer-director Brady Corbet’s “Vox Lux” is a dizzyingly ambitious project, in which a girl becomes a pop star after being a victim in a school shooting only to find herself years later again inexplicably touched by violence.
Natalie Portman plays the adult version of the girl, named Celeste, with Stacy Martin playing her sister and confidant and Jude Law her longtime manager. Raffey Cassidy plays both young Celeste and older Celeste’s daughter
Taken alongside Portman’s Oscar-nominated role in “Jackie,” her performance in “Vox Lux” is another fascinating look at the private lives of public figures. One of Celeste’s songs, co-written by real-life pop star Sia, is about being “a private girl in a public world.”
Portman herself has become more vocal about social causes, from her call-out of the all-male nominees for best director at this year’s Golden Globes to her work as part of Time’s Up. She and Corbet talked about “Vox Lux” and its relationship to celebrity when they stopped by the L.A. Times studio during the Toronto International Film Festival, where the film was just acquired for release by Neon.
“It definitely was a shift for me to go from thinking that this kind of privacy and protecting myself was of utmost importance and then being converted into dipping my toe into using this public platform for talking about things I care about,” Portman said. “And I’m navigating those waters. I’m not totally comfortable with it yet and maybe never will be.”
As for the film and its heady take on celebrity, violence and world events, Corbet said, “I don’t set out to be didactic and tell people what to think, but I do try to design something that will allow them or afford them the space to reflect on the events of the last 20 years. I feel like we’ve been through a lot. It’s a poem, it’s not an essay.”
Joel Edgerton: ‘I was one of those people who maybe just heard a whisper of conversion therapy’
“Boy Erased” star, writer and director Joel Edgerton and author Garrard Conley talk about their film based on Conley’s memoir about surviving a so-called gay conversion therapy camp.
It took Garrard Conley almost 10 years before he could write about being sent to a gay conversion therapy camp by his parents “because I was terrified of what had happened to me,” he said.
“I was either too angry or too upset to write any of it,” he said. “Then I read several blogs of survivor stories and saw mine reflected.”
What Conley ended up penning became “Boy Erased,” a 2016 memoir recounting his childhood in a fundamentalist Arkansas family. The book made its way to Joel Edgerton’s hands, who adapted it for the screen, with the film premiering last week at the Toronto International Film Festival.
During a stop at the Los Angeles Times film and video studio, the writer-director-star discussed bringing Conley’s story to life.
“I was one of those people ... who maybe just heard a whisper of this concept of conversion therapy,” he said. “I just was so moved by what I saw from the outside … I felt very respectful and privileged to be able to come in and be a vehicle, to turn Garrard’s story into a different form so we could see it.”
‘I hope it will make people think’: Errol Morris on the Steve Bannon documentary ‘American Dharma’
“American Dharma” filmmaker Errol Morris discusses the factors behind the 2016 election, why he made a film focused on Steve Bannon, the question he hopes it will answer and what he hopes it will accomplish.
Sunday afternoon at the Toronto International Film Festival saw the North American premiere of Errol Morris’ documentary “American Dharma” — which is essentially an extended interview with controversial political advisor Steve Bannon.
The movie arrived at TIFF after playing at the Venice Film Festival and not long after a public outcry over Bannon being announced to appear at, and then disinvited from, the New Yorker Festival. Morris’ film has become the subject of heated debate even before most people have had a chance to see it. Some say that even making it gives former Trump administration official Bannon too much of a platform.
Morris stopped by the Los Angeles Times studio in Toronto for a video interview on making the movie and whether he expected the mere fact of its existence to become a flashpoint.
Justin Chang’s festival diary: ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ wraps Toronto in a loving embrace
There are more than a few love stories being told in Barry Jenkins’ exquisite new movie, “If Beale Street Could Talk,” which had its world premiere Sunday night at the Toronto International Film Festival. First and foremost, there is the romance of 19-year-old Clementine “Tish” Rivers (KiKi Layne) and 22-year-old Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt (Stephan James), who grew up together in Harlem and have recently become engaged, sometime during the early 1970s.
There is also the steadfast loyalty that binds family members together, even under the direst circumstances. Tish is loved most ferociously and unconditionally by her mother, Sharon (a magnificent Regina King), who intervenes forcefully on Fonny’s behalf when he is falsely accused of rape and thrown in jail, just a few months before Tish realizes she is pregnant with his child.
But “If Beale Street Could Talk” might just as well be described as a love letter to the color spectrum — to the ravishing visual possibilities of gold autumn leaves and dusky-blue New York streets. It’s about Jenkins’ love for his myriad influences, among them writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin, who wrote the 1974 novel on which the picture is based, and filmmakers such as Douglas Sirk, Hou Hsiao-hsien and Wong Kar-wai.
How ‘Widows’ director Steve McQueen and Gillian Flynn bonded over their Chicago-set heist thriller
Director Steve McQueen (“Shame,” “12 Years a Slave”) and co-writer Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”) on why they transplanted the setting of “Widows” to modern-day Chicago, and how they bonded over a shared love of movies.
When London-born filmmaker Steve McQueen (“Shame,” “12 Years a Slave”) and Missouri native Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl,” “Sharp Objects”) first met to work on crime thriller “Widows,” about four women who attempt to pull off a heist planned by their late husbands, they connected over a shared love of movies.
The co-screenwriters met in New York, bouncing ideas off each other for how to update crime novelist Lynda La Plante’s 1983 British miniseries of the same name.
“I thought there was so much to be done [with the source material] – plus I just wanted to work with him,” Flynn said of McQueen at the Los Angeles Times studio at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the highly anticipated Nov. 16 release had a world premiere.
“We were just talking, pulling up different clips of movies that we love: ‘You’ve got to see this!’” Flynn described.
One movie moment that came to life for McQueen during their meetings, the director revealed, was straight out of the big screen adaptation of Flynn’s “Gone Girl.”
“When Ben Affleck goes into the bar and says to his sister at 9 a.m. in the morning, ‘I want a whiskey’... she looks at him and puts two glasses on the table and pours him two glasses,” he remembered. “We’re in New York for a drink and Gillian said, ‘I want a whiskey,’ and I said, ‘I want a whiskey, too!’”
The pair re-set “Widows” in modern-day Chicago, where Flynn lives, injecting their script with layers of local, social and political commentary — textures that come to life with a strong ensemble led by Viola Davis, with Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Bryan Tyree Henry and Daniel Kaluuya rounding out the cast.
“We both were interested in putting this into a heightened, modern-day city,” said McQueen. “And in some ways through that local situation of Chicago, we reflect the global.”
“It is a global story,” added Flynn. “It’s not just about cities these days, and crime and politics these days… but also about family, and life, and that idea that you can live in a city your whole life and not meet people who aren’t like you if you don’t try.”
See personalized celebrity instant photos from The Times’ TIFF studio
Colin Farrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Daniel Kaluuya and Kelly Marie Tran are just a select few of the big names who have dropped by the L.A. Times’ photo and video studio at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.
In addition to studio portraits, The Times is taking advantage of the A-list access to request that the talent sign special instant-print photos.
So what does 11-year-old Jacob Tremblay’s penmanship look like? How does Natalie Portman shorten her last name? And what special additions did Brian Tyree Henry and Dev Patel make to their autographs?
Two years after ‘Moonlight,’ Barry Jenkins has another emotional night in Toronto with ‘Beale Street’
Writer-director Barry Jenkins had never participated in a prayer circle before a movie. At the world premiere of “If Beale Street Could Talk,” his much-anticipated follow-up to the Oscar-winning “Moonlight,” he took part in two — one ahead of the Sunday screening at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre and another before the Q&A after the film.
Both were convened by actor Colman Domingo, and both ended with the words of James Baldwin, author of the novel on which “Beale Street” is based: “Love brought you here.”
Speaking at a celebratory party following the Q&A, Jenkins remembered the emotional night two years ago when “Moonlight” screened at the festival. Nobody had seen it, and tears flowed freely.
How Karyn Kusama’s L.A. noir ‘Destroyer’ found its heroine in Nicole Kidman
In director Karyn Kusama’s “Destroyer” — a restless, brutal piece of hard-boiled neo-noir that blazes across a Los Angeles only real Angelenos might recognize — an LAPD detective haunts the city in search of answers, maybe even something resembling peace, long buried far beneath the surface.
But the path to justice is dark and twisty, traversing the underbelly of modern-day L.A. to the desert, where once, years ago, an undercover job gone wrong changed everything. In Kusama’s “Destroyer,” the City of Angels is littered with physical carnage, spiritual decay, corruption, violence and neglect, and the only way forward is a reckoning with the past.
At the heart of it all, in a transformative performance already garnering Oscar buzz, is Nicole Kidman as the dogged and dangerous Det. Erin Bell. It’s not just a rare story centered on a female lead in the crime genre — think Al Pacino in “Heat” or Denzel Washington in “Training Day” — but it’s also the kind of character rarely written for women, period.
The men of ‘Widows’ on Steve McQueen’s ‘incredible snapshot of modern society’
“Widows” stars Liam Neeson, Daniel Kaluuya and Brian Tyree Henry discuss taking on Steve McQueen’s timely heist thriller.
Ahead of the Saturday night premiere of “Widows” at the Toronto International Film Festival, the men of the cast stopped by the Los Angeles Times studio to discuss their turns in Steve McQueen’s heist thriller, a film Daniel Kaluuya calls “an incredible snapshot of modern society.”
“With this narrative and this plot, you’re able to see every part of Chicago and how Chicago speaks to all Western cities and what moves people and what certain people are allowed to rise and certain people aren’t and why that is,” said the actor known for his Oscar-nominated turn in “Get Out.” “It raises more questions, which I always find really rewarding.”
The film is about a group of women who come together after their husbands die. Faced with paying off their debt, the widows band together to complete a $5-million job their husbands left behind. Viola Davis leads the cast along with Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Erivo. The men of the cast include Kaluuya, “Atlanta” Emmy nominee Brian Tyree Henry, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell and Liam Neeson.
See more of what the cast had to say about the film in the video interviews from the L.A. Times’ Toronto International Film Festival studio.
“Widows” stars Colin Farrell and Robert DuVall discuss their reasons for saying “yes” to Steve McQueen’s female-led heist thriller.
After Olivia Munn speaks out, ‘The Predator’ costars drop out of scheduled interviews
“The Predator” stars Olivia Munn, Trevante Rhodes and Augusto Aguilera address the controversial casting of a registered sex offender in the movie.
Actress Olivia Munn says she’s experiencing blowback for speaking out during the promotional tour of her film “The Predator.”
“It’s a very frustrating feeling to be treated like you’re the one who went to jail for a crime against a child when all I did was the right thing,” Munn said in a speech at the Creative Coalition dinner in Toronto on Saturday night.
Munn said the feelings began Thursday, when The Times published a report that “The Predator” director Shane Black had cast his longtime friend — a man he was aware was a registered sex offender — in a small role. The actor, Steven Wilder Striegel, was in one scene opposite Munn. Fox cut that scene last month after Munn discovered Striegel’s background and alerted the studio.
As the actress told Vanity Fair during an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday, “It’s like I stumbled upon something and now I’m being chased by everyone and isolated.”
The isolation Munn spoke of seemingly came to a head during the Toronto press tour when several cast members canceled interview commitments, and Munn was left entirely alone for one interview.
As Munn told the Hollywood Reporter, “it’s a very lonely feeling to be sitting here by myself when I should be sitting here with the rest of my cast.”
Though Black issued a public apology following The Times’ story, he has since avoided press at the film festival, where the sci-fi franchise sequel had its world premiere Thursday evening.
The next day, Munn called in sick for a scheduled press junket. She was able to return to the promotional tour Saturday, when cast including Boyd Holbrook, Keegan-Michael Key, Augusto Aguilera, Trevante Rhodes, Thomas Jane and Jacob Tremblay completed group interviews as scheduled with Variety (where the topic of Striegel was discussed), Entertainment Weekly (where the topic was not discussed) and The Times.
After an emotional on-camera interview with Munn, Rhodes and Aguilera at The Times’ TIFF studio, the remaining cast members (who were not present for the taping) were ushered out of the studio, with a studio rep citing scheduling and time limitations.
Munn continued to the Hollywood Reporter, where she was solo for what had been scheduled as a group interview, and the IMDb studio, where the only other actor to show up as scheduled with Munn was 11-year-old Tremblay. (Key and James were not scheduled for further interviews.)
A source close to the situation who requested anonymity because of the possibility of professional repercussions said their outlet was told that “the guys became uncomfortable with the way the interviews were going” and decided to back out.
Representatives for Holbrook, Aguilera and Rhodes declined or did not respond to requests to comment for this story.
In a statement late Saturday, Fox said: “Each of our cast members fulfilled their promotional obligations and attended their interviews today in line with our expectations. There are always last-minute scheduling shifts.”
Overnight, Sterling K. Brown, who also costars in “The Predator” but could not make the trip to TIFF due to scheduling conflicts with his NBC series “This Is Us,” tweeted his support of Munn.
“I’m sorry you’re feeling so isolated, my dear,” he began in part of a longer thread. “And I’m sorry you’ve been the only one to speak up publicly. I was not at #TIFF so I didn’t have an opportunity to be there with you.”
Justin Chang’s festival diary: Steve McQueen’s ‘Widows’ blurs genre and politics into a corrosive cocktail
The British director Steve McQueen is both a master formalist and a gifted connoisseur of human suffering. Whatever you may think of his films “Hunger” (2008), “Shame” (2011) and “12 Years a Slave” (2013) individually, it’s hard not to appreciate them collectively as a trilogy on the body and soul in states of extremis, on the ways a human being can be abused, imprisoned and driven beyond the point of despair.
If McQueen’s compassion has often felt checked by a degree of sadism, it may stem from the severity of his visual style, a diamond-hard aesthetic of precisely framed compositions that has the curious effect of both exalting and mocking his characters’ suffering. There’s great beauty in his filmmaking, but the director makes sure that his audiences and his characters pay a steep price for every last drop of it.
The importance of paying one’s debts, even the ones you didn’t ask for, is the driving force behind McQueen’s gripping, corrosive and superbly acted new heist movie, “Widows,” which had its world premiere Saturday night at the Toronto International Film Festival. After the sobering dramatic rigors of his Oscar-winning “12 Years a Slave,” McQueen’s first out-and-out thriller — you could even call it his first out-and-out entertainment — feels like a departure in many respects, though it might be better understood as a progression.
‘Every film is sexy for me’: Claire Denis on ‘High Life’ and Robert Pattinson
Claire Denis is a filmmaker’s filmmaker. Though the French writer-director has never had a commercial breakthrough in the U.S., she has been a steady presence in international cinema circles from her debut feature “Chocolat” in 1988 through such titles as 1999’s “Beau Travail,” 2010’s “White Material,” and “Let the Sunshine In,” which debuted in 2017 and was released in the U.S. this year.
In part, she is so well-regarded because she remains so unpredictable. There is no signature style to her work and it remains surprising with each and every film.
Her latest, “High Life,” which has its world premiere on Sunday night as part of the Toronto International Film Festival, is arriving with a higher than usual level of expectations. Long in the works, the film is a lo-fi sci-fi story that finds Denis working for the first time in the English language. She also has as a star Robert Pattinson, who continues his post-“Twilight” run of working with truly singular filmmakers.
A.V. Rockwell on her short film ‘Feathers’ and why ‘the land of the free’ isn’t free for all
Being a filmmaker isn’t something that was on A.V. Rockwell’s radar as a kid. But as a student at NYU while studying abroad in Paris, she took a European cinema class that exposed her “to a whole new world of what moviemaking could be.”
“I’d just sit in my room and watch all these movies and discover work from [Italian writer-director Federico] Fellini and [French-Swiss director Jean-Luc] Godard and all these incredible filmmakers,” she said. “That really expanded for me what storytelling could be.”
Years later, the Queens, N.Y.-born writer-director is at the Toronto International Film Festival with her short film “Feathers.”
‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ director Barry Jenkins and stars discuss the blackest part of their film
“If Beale Street Could Talk” director Barry Jenkins and stars Stephan James and Kiki Layne stopped by the Los Angeles Times’ Toronto International Film Festival studio to discuss their adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel.
Ask anyone familiar with the late James Baldwin about his work and the words “unapologetically black” will come to mind. When Barry Jenkins, director of the Oscar-winning “Moonlight,” decided to adapt the famed writer’s novel “If Beale Street Could Talk,” he knew he had to bring it. And by “it,” I mean the blackness.
Ahead of the film’s world premiere Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival, Jenkins, along with stars Kiki Layne and Stephan James, stopped by the Los Angeles Times film and video studio to discuss the blackest aspect of the picture.
“There is a scene in this movie where you have these two families and they kick the men out and it’s just six black women, sitting in a living room, just reading each other,” said Jenkins, smiling. “… It is black as hell.”
“But I think also, too … [Baldwin] had integrity. He wrote about the truth and so black people speak in this film the way they speak amongst themselves. … When people walk into the theater, they’re going to be allowed into James Baldwin’s mind, but i think also, too, into this experience of what it’s like to be black in America, because we pull no punches.”
‘Halloween’ and Michael Myers return, but Jamie Lee Curtis is waiting, at the Toronto International Film Festival
New “Halloween” helmer David Gordon Green got a helpful piece of advice from horror maestro John Carpenter: “Keep it simple, and make it relentless.”
Green revealed that tidbit to a packed midnight audience Saturday at the Toronto International Film Festival’s world premiere of “Halloween” — where excited fans dressed in Michael Myers costumes and gave the Oct. 19 release a standing ovation before the screening even began.
Simple and relentless the 2018 “Halloween” is, anchored by a tough-as-nails return by the erstwhile Laurie Strode herself: Jamie Lee Curtis. Set 40 years after Carpenter’s 1978 original film with the same title, “Halloween” 2018 finds Strode back in Haddonfield, Ill., facing off once again against iconic killer Michael Myers.
‘Widows’ is a heist thriller unlike any other — making its Oscar prospects uncertain
If 20th Century Fox isn’t entirely sure at this very moment how to play the Oscar campaign for Steve McQueen’s heist thriller “Widows,” it’s because there has never been a heist thriller like “Widows.”
And that’s precisely why it should be in the thick of the conversation this awards season.
“Widows,” which had its world premiere Saturday night at the Toronto International Film Festival, is ostensibly about a group of women, led by Viola Davis, carrying out a robbery that their husbands planned but never completed. (The film’s title betrays the reason why.)
But in taking the premise of a 1980s British television crime drama, McQueen and co-writer Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”) have as much, if not more, interest in the societal forces that propel the women toward this desperate course of action. It’s about toxic men, a broken political system and a world in which anything — and anyone — can be bought and sold and the emptiness embedded in that kind of transactional culture.
At Toronto women’s rally, Geena Davis advocates for on-screen gender parity
Geena Davis and director Tom Donahue discuss women in Hollywood and the documentary “This Changes Everything” at the LA Times studio at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.
Geena Davis got into the black SUV that was waiting for her, clutching a couple of folded pages of notes. She’d jotted down a few ideas for her speech in black cursive.
“I can talk and do this at the same time,” she said, taking a pen out of her red Gucci bag to mark her pages with.
The actress, 62, was headed to the Share Her Journey rally here on Saturday morning, where hundreds had gathered to advocate for equality in the film industry. Davis was scheduled to speak first in a lineup that included director Amma Asante, actress Mia Kirshner and USC researcher Stacy L. Smith.
‘My silence is not for sale’: Olivia Munn, ‘Predator’ co-stars address Shane Black controversy
“The Predator” stars Olivia Munn, Trevante Rhodes and Augusto Aguilera address the controversial casting of a registered sex offender in the movie.
Saturday at the Toronto International Film Festival, stars of “The Predator” addressed director Shane Black’s decision to cast registered sex offender Steven Wilder Striegel in the film and praised Olivia Munn for speaking out about the move, which prompted a last-minute recut made public in a report by the Los Angeles Times.
“I wasn’t disappointed in Shane,” said Trevante Rhodes during a group interview with Munn and Augusto Aguilera at The Times’ TIFF studio. “I was disappointed in the situation, and I’m happy that Liv spoke up.”
“I thought about the possibility of this continuing to happen, and where it happens — and also to Liv, for speaking up on such a subject, because it takes a lot of courage to be able to say that,” Aguilera added.
Justin Chang’s festival diary: ‘A Star Is Born,’ ‘Beautiful Boy’ bring stories of love and addiction to Toronto
Let it be noted that the key line in the swooning pop-rock melodrama “A Star Is Born” isn’t spoken, or sung, by either Lady Gaga or Bradley Cooper. It’s delivered by a hardened music-industry veteran played by a soulful Sam Elliott (is there any other kind?), who points out that all music is essentially a series of variations and interpretations on the 12 notes of a scale.
“It’s the same story told over and over,” he says. “All the artist can offer the world is how he sees those 12 notes.” He could, of course, be describing the movie he’s in, and perhaps offering a preemptive defense for those inclined to knock remakes on principle.
“A Star Is Born,” which marks Cooper’s directorial debut, is the latest gloss on a timeless Hollywood tragedy first told in the 1937 film starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, and then rekindled, gloriously, in 1954, with Judy Garland and James Mason. A 1976 version starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson relocated the love story of a rising actress and a fading, hard-drinking movie star to the music biz, which is where Cooper’s version picks up.
Netflix’s ‘Roma’ wins top prize at Venice Film Festival and takes Oscar season lead
The Venice Film Festival’s top prize, the Golden Lion, was awarded Saturday to Alfonso Cuarón’s autobiographical period drama “Roma.”
This is the first time that Netflix, which will release “Roma” in December, has won the top prize at a major European film festival. (Netflix acquired Berlin fest winner “On Body and Soul” months after it won the prize.) And it comes just months after the streaming service was shut out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival due to its controversial day-and-date theatrical and streaming release strategy.
“Roma,” which will screen at the Toronto International Film Festival beginning Monday and serve as the centerpiece gala of the upcoming New York Film Festival, is already considered a top contender for Academy Award consideration.
Although nominations will not be revealed until January, pundits are betting on “Roma” to score in major categories including picture, director, screenplay, actress, cinematography and foreign-language film. A picture nomination would be another first for a Netflix film.
Last year’s Venice champion, “The Shape of Water,” went on to claim this year’s best-picture Oscar (the first time that had happened in the festival’s history). That film was directed by Guillermo del Toro, who served as the head of this year’s jury and is also a longtime friend of Cuarón’s.
Another prime Oscar contender, “The Favourite,” a witty and ribald period comedy set in the early 18th-century court of England’s Queen Anne, took the Venice jury’s runner-up prize.
The Fox Searchlight release is scheduled to open the New York Film Festival ahead of its Nov. 23 limited theatrical debut and has drawn early raves for the performances of Emma Stone, Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz. It could become a true breakthrough in the American market for idiosyncratic Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster,” “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”), whose critically acclaimed oddity “Dogtooth” earned an Oscar nomination for foreign-language film.
Colman won the Venice jury’s prize for best actress, while best actor went to Willem Dafoe for his performance as the artist Vincent van Gogh in artist-filmmaker Julian Schnabel’s “At Eternity’s Gate.”
French filmmaker Jacques Audiard won the best director prize for his English-language debut, “The Sisters Brothers.” The comedy-tinged western starring Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed is also screening at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Another Netflix title, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” received the best screenplay prize for Joel and Ethan Coen. And Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent’s “The Nightingale,” her first film since the cult horror sensation “The Babadook,” was awarded a special jury prize and its young star Baykali Ganambarr, the Marcello Mastroianni Award for for Best New Young Actor or Actress.
‘We live in very perilous times’: Errol Morris on Steve Bannon and ‘American Dharma’
Wherever Steve Bannon appears, controversy follows. The former advisor to President Trump, who was also involved in his election campaign, has most recently been in the headlines for being booked and then disinvited to speak at the upcoming New Yorker Festival. Errol Morris’ documentary on Bannon, “American Dharma,” recently had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and will have its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday.
Morris is no stranger to controversial subjects. He won an Oscar for his 2003 film “The Fog of War,” about the Vietnam-era Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Among his subsequent projects was 2013’s “The Unknown Known,” about Donald H. Rumsfeld, two-time secretary of Defense who served during the launch of the Iraq war. Morris’ 1999 film “Mr. Death” was about execution technician and Holocaust denier Fred A. Leuchter Jr.
‘Beautiful Boy’: Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell are superb in a moving portrait of addiction and familial love
After the credits finished rolling for “Beautiful Boy,” a moving portrait of familial love in the face of addiction, the Toronto International Film Festival audience at the Elgin Theater predictably went nuts when Timothée Chalamet came on stage. Steve Carell, who plays Chalamet’s father in the film, received warm applause too.
But the biggest ovation came when the real-life subjects of the movie, David and Nic Sheff, arrived. “Beautiful Boy” is their story, based on their own bestselling memoirs, and Chalamet still seemed skittish in their presence.
“We had dinner last night and it was, like, all of us, and I’m a firm believer that the art takes place in the head of the audience member and yet there was a tremendous anxiety in what Nic and David were going to think about this,” Chalamet said during a Q&A following the film. “I hope you guys aren’t lying when you say you like it.”
“Beautiful Boy” chronicles Nic’s descent into crystal-meth addiction and David’s attempts to understand and accept what has happened to his son and help save him. The film, directed by Felix Van Groeningen (“The Broken Circle Breakdown”), doesn’t sugarcoat or sensationalize addiction. As much as David wants his son back, he’s powerless to break the cycle.
Inside the L.A. Times photo studio at the Toronto International Film Festival
It’s that time of year again when the stars come out in full force to Toronto to promote their upcoming films, and the Los Angeles Times is right in the center of the action.
Early guests to The Times’ Toronto International Film Festival photo studio include Dev Patel, pictured above, Isabelle Huppert and Chloë Grace Moretz.
Click the link below to see more photos from the studio and don’t forget to check back throughout the 10-day festival to see all the latest celebrity portraits.
‘This is a film that we needed yesterday’: ‘The Hate U Give’ cast discusses their Black Lives Matter-inspired film
“The Hate U Give” director George Tillman Jr. and star Amandla Stenberg discuss what separates their film from others inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement that are hitting theaters this year.
Filming a movie about the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality can be daunting. But for the cast and crew of “The Hate U Give,” which had its world premiere Friday night at the Toronto International Film Festival, they took the opportunity to pay respects to those who’ve lost their lives.
“The whole process of filming felt like a grieving process, a space and time to honor the lives of those who’ve been killed by police, to think about the significance of their lives...” said Amandla Stenberg, who leads the film as Starr, a high schooler who witnesses her best friend being shot and killed by a white officer.
Directed by George Tillman Jr., “The Hate U Give,” also stars Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Algee Smith, Common, Issa Rae and KJ Apa. It will hit theaters Oct. 19.
While audiences will have much to take away from the social drama — adapted from Angie Thomas’ New York Times bestselling debut novel of the same name — Hall highlighted how the picture captures “what the loss of someone means.”
“We see it on the news for 10 minutes… and the moment goes,” she continued. “But when you watch a story like this, you realize that loss is reverberated [through] all the people that know him. That loss is real and I think it’s imperative that people get that.”
Hornsby added: “This is a film that we needed yesterday, we’ll need tomorrow and we’ll need further down the line.”
See more of what the cast had to say about the film in the video interviews from the L.A. Times’ Toronto International Film Festival studio.
Stars Algee Smith, Regina Hall and Russell Hornsby discuss “The Hate U Give,” their film adaptation of a Black Lives Matter-inspired young adult novel.
‘The Predator’ premieres with controversy in the air, and conspicuous silence
“The Predator” is unmistakably a Shane Black movie, right from the opening scene of its camouflaged sniper hero (Boyd Holbrook) wisecracking amid the nighttime flora. Lensed in meaty hues, he takes down a target with a casual head shot before an alien ship crashes into Earth to inaugurate the action-packed proceedings.
Predators? It’s got plenty, including impressive new variations on the extraterrestrial big-game hunter, major twists on the “Predator” mythology and a new squad of misfit warrior heroes (and heroine) who keep the film moving at a clip as they fight, survive and protect their way to the end.
Eager festival fans amped for the Midnight Madness section opener packed Toronto’s Ryerson Theatre and cheered as Black introduced the movie Thursday, when they were the first to see the 20th Century Fox sequel ahead of its Sept. 14 wide release.
“You’re not going to see a film; you’re going to see a movie,” he said, thanking the studio and his cast.
Great Gyllenhaal, moving ‘Monsters’ and what should be South Korea’s first foreign language film nod
Before being swept away in the galas and high-profile premieres, the opening day of the Toronto International Film Festival offers something of a last-gasp chance to play catch-up with movies I missed at past festivals.
The trio of films I saw all deserve to be in the awards season conversation in one way or another.
“The Kindergarten Teacher” (Oct. 12, Netflix)
Sarah Colangelo’s psychologically complex portrait of a wounded woman obsessed with a gifted student premiered at Sundance, and it features a lead turn from Maggie Gyllenhaal that will floor you.
Justin Chang’s festival diary: ‘Outlaw King’ and ‘Non-Fiction’ bring winds of change to Toronto
There were a fair number of “oohs” and “aahs” at the Toronto opening-night premiere of David Mackenzie’s “Outlaw King” on Thursday — not for the movie, which hadn’t started yet, but for the bright and shiny new Netflix logo that preceded it. Rather than the familiar white screen and jarring musical thunderclap — you know, the one that immediately puts you in a living-room state of mind — the movie kicked off with a more artful, discreet treatment, simply positioning the red letter “N” against a black screen.
It’s a sign that the streaming giant, a formidable presence here at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, might be trying to distinguish its workaday product from its prestige fare. It’s also an acknowledgment, deliberate or not, that “Outlaw King” belongs on the big screen and nowhere else. An unofficial sequel to “Braveheart,” the film stars an excellent Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce, the Scottish warrior-king who effectively took over for William Wallace in casting off the shackles of English rule.
It’s been a while since a picture actually spurred me to think, “They don’t make ’em like this anymore,” which I mean less as an index of quality than a simple acknowledgment of “Outlaw King’s” size and scale, the lavish on-screen evidence that no expense was spared. Gorgeously filmed on location in Scotland with an enormous ensemble — the standouts include Stephen Dillane as the viciously calculating King Edward I, Billy Howle as his feckless but monstrous son and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as one of Bruce’s most loyal allies — the movie is a juicy slab of cinematic red meat, a symphony of mud, blood and viscera set to a soundtrack of thundering hoofbeats and howls of vengeance.
The L.A. Times’ TIFF photo studio is officially open for business
Now that the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival is officially underway, the Los Angeles Times’ photo studio at the festival is also open for business. Among the first to arrive? Dev Patel ahead of the premiere of his latest film, “Hotel Mumbai,” and “Red Sparrow” actor Matthias Schoenaerts for “Kursk,” both pictured below.
Be sure to follow L.A. Times Entertainment on Instagram and Twitter to see the behind-the-scenes action from the studio and check back throughout the festival for more exclusive photos. In the meantime, take a look back at all our celebrity portraits and Instant prints from last year.
‘Donnybrook’ is a dark journey into America’s heartland and the roots of white rage at the Toronto Film Festival
Not everyone was up to the challenge of bringing director Tim Sutton’s brutal bare-knuckle brawl drama “Donnybrook” to the screen.
Like the everyman warriors of the near-mythic cage fight at its center, the film pulls no punches as it surveys a country locked in dog-eat-dog conflict, afflicted by vicious cycles of violence — physical, emotional, spiritual — and traumas that have never healed.
“I had one actor say after a few meetings that he wasn’t sure he wanted to do something that was so dark, and I was like, ‘Well — that’s the movie,’” said Sutton, whose bold fourth feature stars Jamie Bell, Frank Grillo, James Badge Dale and Margaret Qualley in a startling and riveting turn.
Opening the Toronto Film Festival’s Platform section Friday as a title available for acquisition, “Donnybrook” is at once a requiem for a certain segment of America, and a clarion call for all to take a hard inward look at how and why we’ve arrived at such a tumultuous time in the nation’s history.
‘Predator’ director Shane Black skips TIFF Q&A amid controversy over casting of registered sex offender
“The Predator” director Shane Black skipped the red carpet and a post-screening Q&A for his new film Thursday at the Toronto International Film Festival just hours after it was reported that he had cast a registered sex offender in the upcoming remake.
On Thursday, The Times reported that 20th Century Fox had recently deleted a scene from “Predator” that featured Steven Wilder Striegel, Black’s friend of 14 years who had pleaded guilty in 2010 to trying to lure a 14-year-old girl into an online sexual relationship. Striegel’s scene was cut when his past conviction was brought to the studio’s attention by star Olivia Munn.
Black had defended casting Striegel in an initial statement to The Times, saying, “I personally chose to help a friend.” However, he later issued an apology, just hours ahead of the film’s premiere: “I believe strongly in giving people second chances,” he said, “but sometimes you discover that chance is not as warranted as you may have hoped.”
Despite the tough situation, both Munn and Black were in attendance Thursday night at the film’s premiere.
However, upon arrival on the red carpet, Munn was mobbed by a large crowd. One member of the crowd addressing the actress made reference to his “friend Steve” — seemingly referring to Striegel.
The actress was soon ushered into the screening before conducting any red carpet interviews. She later apologized on Twitter.
Black also skipped red carpet interviews as well as the post-screening Q&A attended by Munn and her costars Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Augusto Aguilera and the film’s co-writer. Black’s only comments came when he introduced the film; he made no mention of Striegel.
It’s unclear how Thursday’s report will affect future marketing events for the movie. A junket for the film was scheduled to take place Friday in Toronto.
New USC study doubles down on lack of diversity and inclusion in film criticism
USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released a followup to its June study analyzing diversity in film criticism on Friday. Titled “Critic’s Choice 2,” the study establishes that the previously-reported gender and racial/ethnic inequality of the field is a long-standing industry issue and reveals how this inequality varies by publication type.
Evaluating reviews of the 300 top-grossing films from 2015 to 2017 on aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, it notes that only 21.3 percent of the total 59,751 reviews were written by female critics, with men writing the remaining 78.7 percent. Non-white critics wrote 16.8 percent of these reviews.
White male critics wrote almost 66 percent of the reviews, white women almost 18 percent and men of color a little over 13 percent. Women of color only wrote 3.7 percent of reviews.
“This study reveals that the inequality we see among critics is not a one-time problem,” said Stacy Smith, director of the Initiative who partnered with Time’s Up Entertainment, an affiliate within Time’s Up, on the study. “These are stable patterns that demonstrate that the conversation surrounding films and their value is not an inclusive one.”
The report also looked at inclusion prospects by publication type. Among top critics, as defined by Rotten Tomatoes, white men wrote significantly more reviews than any other group at notable daily papers (which includes the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today and the Washington Post among 6 others), daily and weekly newspapers, entertainment trades (The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and The Wrap), general news outlets and entertainment publications. White women fared best at entertainment outlets (23.8 percent) while men and women of color were more likely to write for entertainment trades (22.7 and 3.3 percent, respectively).
The previous study spurred action within the film industry, including pledges by both the Toronto International Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival to increase access for underrepresented critics to their events.
Smith will be revealing the details of the latest study during a panel at TIFF on Friday. See the full study here.
Drake bails on much-hyped TIFF appearance at opening night ‘Monsters and Men’ premiere
A last-minute cancellation by Drake had Toronto International Film Festival fans in their feelings Thursday, sending disappointed attendees running through the 6ix with their woes — and holding pricey opening night tickets to the premiere he was slated to attend.
Last month the festival sent Drizzy fans into a tizzy on social media by announcing that the Toronto rapper would be in attendance to give a special introduction at the Sept. 6 Canadian premiere of indie drama “Monsters and Men,” preceding the 2018 edition’s opening night festivities.
According to TIFF organizers, a statement from Drake’s team said the sudden change of plans was due to “scheduling commitments on his current tour”:
“‘Monsters and Men’ is a project very close to Drake’s heart but due to scheduling commitments on his current tour he unfortunately will not be able to attend and introduce the film at TIFF. He wishes the film the utmost success and feels strongly about its ability to positively inspire dialogue.”
The screening was sold as a “premium” event Thursday night at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, a designation implemented by TIFF organizers to denote higher-value screenings featuring celebrity attendees or special Q&As.
Premium screenings additionally subject to “dynamic pricing” also boast price tags to match, ranging from $25 to $82 at theaters with reserved tier seating and $52-59 at venues including the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
As of Thursday evening, premium tickets to the 9 p.m. premiere of “Monsters and Men,” which included access to the opening night party attended by the cast and filmmakers, were going for $107 each through the TIFF website.
Drake is an executive producer on the Brooklyn-set police shooting drama written and directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, which stars John David Washington, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Anthony Ramos, Chanté Adams and Nicole Beharie.
The film world premiered at Sundance, where it won a special jury prize and landed U.S. distribution with NEON, with a domestic release scheduled for Sept. 28.
Late last month Drake abruptly postponed the Toronto kick-off date of his concert tour.
Last year he made an appearance at the TIFF premiere of documentary “The Carter Effect,” about Toronto Raptors star Vince Carter, which he executive produced.
20th Century Fox pulls scene from ‘The Predator’ after director Shane Black casts his friend, a registered sex offender
Twentieth Century Fox was just days away from locking picture on “The Predator” when an urgent note came in: Delete the scene featuring Steven Wilder Striegel.
Striegel, 47, didn’t have a big role in his longtime friend Shane Black’s reboot of the sci-fi thriller — just a three-page scene shared with actress Olivia Munn.
But last month, Munn learned that Striegel is a registered sex offender who pleaded guilty in 2010 after facing allegations that he attempted to lure a 14-year-old female into a sexual relationship via the internet. When Munn shared the information with Fox on Aug. 15, studio executives quickly decided to excise him from the movie.
Alfonso Cuarón delves into his childhood for ‘Roma,’ and talk already turns to Oscars
Over the course of his filmmaking career, Alfonso Cuarón has explored everything from outer space (“Gravity”) to a dystopian future (“Children of Men”) to a world populated by wizards and fantastical creatures (“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”).
With his newest film, the 56-year-old director is somewhere that’s closer to home but no less rich in mystery or magic: his own past.
Set in Mexico City in the early 1970s and inspired by his childhood memories, Cuarón’s upcoming drama “Roma” follows a year in the life of a middle-class family and its nanny, Cleo, chronicling the dramas, small and large, that at times fray their relationships and the love that binds them together.
Shot in black and white, with a cast mixing professional actors and nonactors and a scope at once intimate and epic, “Roma” received rapturous reviews in its initial outings at the Venice and Telluride film festivals for its blend of naturalism and poetry, and its sensitive handling of difficult issues of class and race. Even as the movie is set to screen at the Toronto International Film Festival on Monday, many are already predicting it could bring Netflix, which will release it theatrically and via streaming in December, its first best picture nomination.
Toronto International Film Festival 2018 looks to read the moment and move it forward
If you are feeling particularly anxious, concerned or upset by the cultural and political moment, the Toronto International Film Festival is here for you. Though perhaps not exactly to mellow any troubled minds.
This year’s festival, which runs Sept. 6-16 and has a longstanding reputation as an awards season launching pad, brims over with movies that reflect a charged sense of unease and uncertainty. These pictures may not provide easy answers, but they do give voice to questions that audiences are already asking themselves.
And as the first edition of the festival to convene since the revelations of the #MeToo/TimesUp era began, the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival feels mobilized and making the effort to properly read the moment.
With a major push into this year’s fall film festivals, Netflix flexes its awards season muscle