People

Star-maker machinery

Hollywood’s elite come to Toronto to launch their films

Shanda Deziel,Brian D. Johnson September 25 2000
People

Star-maker machinery

Hollywood’s elite come to Toronto to launch their films

Shanda Deziel,Brian D. Johnson September 25 2000

Star-maker machinery

People

Shanda Deziel

Hollywood’s elite come to Toronto to launch their films

It was the Godfather family reunion that never happened. Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Robert Duvall all touched down at the Toronto International Film Festival last week, each launching a different movie. The three erstwhile wise guys were among the horde of stars who descended on the city for the festivals 25th-anniversary edition (Sept. 7 to 16). But they passed each other like ships in the night.

“I never see those guys anymore,” sighed Duvall, the day after the première of A Shot at Glory, in which he plays a Scottish soccer coach with a thick

Highland brogue. The 69-year-old actor takes pride in the fact that director Michael Corrente cast professional players in the movie, notably Scottish soccer star Ally McCoist. “With that Pacino movie, you couldn’t follow the game,” adds Duvall, taking a shot at Oliver Stone’s 1999 football flick, Any Given Sunday. “It was all tight angles—the geography of the game was never there. They should have got the real NFL experts.”

Like Duvall, Pacino was at the festival to promote a small indie film—the actor directs himself as a destitute novelist in

Chinese Coffee. But De Niro showed up to première a Hollywood product, Men of Honor, co-starring Cuba Gooding Jr. as a navy diver. Duvall, meanwhile, says he’s excited about Francis Ford Coppola’s soonto-be-released recut version of Apocalypse Now. Reinstated footage from the actor’s legendary “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” scene shows his character interrupt his surfing to rescue a Vietnamese baby. “But he probably killed the parents five minutes earlier,” adds the actor.

Among the hits at this year’s festival, the crowd-pleasers included Crouching Tiger,

Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee’s Mandarin martial arts spectacle; Shadow of the Vampire, starring Willem Dafoe as an actor who literally sucks the blood from his co-stars;

Billy Elliot, a Rocky-like tale of a miner’s son who becomes a ballet prodigy; and Almost Famous, Cameron Crowe’s portrait of a rock journalist as a young man.

In Almost Famous, Goldie Hawn’s 21-year-old daughter, Kate Hudson, stars as chick-with-the-band Penny Lane—a role originally turned down by Canadian actress Sarah Polley (who co-stars with Sean Penn in another festival première, The Weight ofWater). To prepare for the role, Hud-

son says she immersed herself in music by Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. “I listened to Visions of Johanna every day before I went in to work,” she says. “Track three on Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. It’s amazing. Also Peoples Parties by Joni Mitchell—I danced around the room to that song during the audition.”

Playing a karaoke singer in Duets, Gwyneth Paltrow showed up with costar Huey Lewis and her father, director Bruce Paltrow, to launch the movie. Gwyneth proved she can sing, and Lewis proved he can act, but the script was painfully off-key. Not that it mattered to the paparazzi, who staked out Paltrow’s hotel, trying in vain to catch her together with former flame Ben Affleck. At the last minute, Affleck slipped into the seat beside her at the première, keeping rumours of a reunion alive.

The festival saw dozens of celebrities come and go, flaunting their wares while attempting to retain their dignity. Richard Gere was mobbed as he crossed the street from one hotel to another, where he fielded questions about how he prepared for his role as a nice-guy gynecologist in Robert Altman’s Dr. T and the Women. And the crusty Altman jumped to defend Farrah Fawcett when a reporter asked how her nutty character in the movie “dovetails” with her public image—she plays a deranged woman who strips naked in a fountain at the mall. “I don’t think I’m anything like her,” said Fawcett, who has posed nude in Playboy and behaved bizarrely on Letterman.

Away from the junket interviews, news conferences and redcarpet photo calls, the stars tried to relax at private dinners. While attentive waiters hovered around her like hummingbirds, Sex and the Citys Sarah Jessica Parker devoured seafood and smoked cigarettes (only her character has quit) with co-

stars from David Mamet’s State and Main, including Alec Baldwin and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Parker, who talks like a better-scripted version of her Sex and the City character—even if her favourite epithet is “friggin’ ”—provoked discussions on topics ranging from TV’s Survivor to Bill Clinton’s farewell speech at the Democratic convention, which she found inspiring—Parker watched it from backstage.

But private parties are not always private. Duvall was the guest of honour at a small but lavish reception at a Rosedale home, a deco mansion on a ravine that Don Starr, a London-based Canadian film financier, treats as his Toronto pied-à-terre. Out front, a phalanx of uniformed attendants provided valet parking while the neighbourhood rich kids buzzed around on chrome scooters. Duvall arrived, strolled past the artificial waterfall to the party—which was taking place on a wooden deck erected over a 12-m backyard pool—and was startled to find four TV cameras lying in wait. He didn’t expect them, not at a posh residential party. But for 10 days, at Canada’s answer to Cannes, sometimes there was simply no escape.

Brian D. Johnson