BARBARA WICKENS November 17 1997


BARBARA WICKENS November 17 1997



Nervous and acting the part

For Mia Kirshner, landing a role opposite Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta in Mad City was a big break. And the 21-year-old Toronto actress is still amazed at how she got the part. “I was really late for the audition because I took the bus,” she recalls—apparently, no one had told her that Hollywood ingenues en route to

stardom in Los Angeles do not use public transit. In that first meeting with Mad City’s producers and its director, Costa-Gavras, “I was very nervous,” says Kirshner, “so nervous I couldn’t stop talking. But they thought I was talking to them in character.” Two days later, without even reading for it, she learned that she had won the part of Laurie—a nervous, eager-to-please assistant to a TV reporter (Hoffman) caught up in a hostage drama.

Kirshner says Hoffman was extremely gracious on the set. “Dustin would come in on his days off and read his off-camera lines for me. No one’s ever done that for me before.” She and Hoffman improvised a lot, and there were moments of on-camera flirtation that got left on the cutting room floor, she adds. “That wasn’t what the story was about, I guess.”

Kirshner jump-started her career at 17 with provocative roles in two Canadian movies—as a dominatrix in Denys Arcand’s Love and Human Remains and a schoolgirl stripper in Atom Egoyan’s Exotica. She later appeared as a spoiled Russian princess in Anna Karenina, and a kinky mystic in The Crow: City of Angels.

With smouldering grey eyes and a dark gamine beauty, the 5-foot, 3-inch, 100-lb. actress has had to dodge Lolita typecasting—and requests to do nudity. “I’m not saying I’ll never do it,” she says, “but it’s so much harder to keep your clothes on than take them off in this business. Even in Exotica they wanted more nudity, but I didn’t feel comfortable.” Kirshner juggles her career

with studies as a fourth-year English literature student at McGill University. And she remains close to her immi-

grant parents in Toronto—Etti, her Bulgarian-born mother, is an English teacher, and Sheldon, her German-born father, writes for The Canadian Jewish News. Kirshner seems determined to stay grounded. “People are the most important thing,” says the actress. “The rest is just confetti.” Kirshner took her father and two friends from her old high school to Mad City’s Hollywood pre£ JJ A mière last month. “I was in this massive limo with Cristal champagne and $150,000 worth of diamonds and an Armani gown. It was totally silly and surreal—it was like my friends and I were riding to the prom we never went to.” Then she adds, in all seriousness, “I think you have to have a sense of humor about this business.”

A literary lion roars

In recent years, writer Mordecai Richler has been as famous for his curmudgeonly skewering of everything from health food to Quebec separatists as for his impressive body of work. But last week, the 66-year-old author reminded everyone that he is still one

of Canada’s top literary lions by winning the Giller Prize. Founded in 1994 by Toronto businessman Jack Rabinovitch in memory of his late wife, journalist Doris Giller, the $25,000 award is Canada’s richest literary prize. In his acceptance speech for his wickedly funny 10th novel, Barney’s Version, about a TV producer who tries to explain his sorry life, Richler told the audience of 400 at a black-tie ceremony in Toronto that the prize meant a lot because Giller had been a great friend. He added he was also friends with Rabinovitch 50 years ago in Montreal. “But,” he joked, “I had no ulterior motive.”

Cheers for Villeneuve

Jacques Villeneuve may

be based in Monaco, but Quebecers still claim him as their own. Last week, while visiting Montreal after clinching the Formula One drivers’ championship in

Spain on Oct. 26, the St-Jeansur-Richelieu, Que.-born driver was greeted by nearly 12,000 adoring fans. And he got a thunderous reception few hours later when he dropped a ceremonial puck at a Canadiens’game.

Although he grew up in Europe—where his father, legendary Quebec race car driver Gilles Villeneuve, died in a 1982 crash—the younger champion maintained that his Canadian and Quebec roots “will never change.” There could be trouble back in Europe, however, with a report that two of the Formula One teams fixed the Spanish race and helped Villeneuve to his victory.