32nd Toronto International Film Festival Coverage: Day Seven

Day 7:

Directing legend Woody Allen made his first appearance at the Festival this year. Though his films have been in the Festival before, this is the first time that the Bespectacled One has graced the city with his presence.

Woody not only showed up for the Gala screening of Cassandra’s Dream, he also took time to hold a press conference, bringing some of his cast with him: Colin Farrell, Ewan McGregor and Hayley Atwell.

Asked about the origin of the screenplay, Woody said he thought there might be a tragic story in the tale of two brothers who face their moral boundaries when faced with an immoral request from an uncle who has always provided for the family. He added that the process for him is always fluid, because as locations and cast change during the pre-production process, he begins to adapt the story to fit the new circumstances. He also said that he gives the actors the freedom to change the dialogue as long as they hit certain beats the plot needs.

Ewan McGregor said that Woody does give actors that leeway, telling them that, “These are just words I wrote,” but added that he didn’t feel the need to change much since Woody is a better writer than he is.

Colin Farrell elicited laughs when he joked that the only film he knew of Woody’s was Antz. He stressed that was an obvious untruth and said that he was interested in the project because the characters were so well crafted.

Another question pondered whether Allen, the quintessential New Yorker, had a problem writing for English characters. Woody said that he wasn’t always fluent in the English idiom, but tried his best to not be offensive. He said the actors were essential in shaping dialogue that would ring truer to their location.

Speaking of locations, relative newcomer Hayley Atwell was asked what is was like when she found herself on set with Woody and her two male leads, who’ve amassed quite the filmography between them. She said there was a moment of “Look where I am!” but that you soon realize you have a job to do just like the others and you soon get over it.

McGregor suggested that Woody’s film making style can ruin you for other directors. He said that Woody’s a very efficient filmmaker and only does a a scene a few times before moving on. Without endless camera set-ups and reshoots, the actor felt that it kept the performances more real since you were still fresh shooting them.

Farrell agreed with his on-screen brother, adding that, “We probably did as many takes for the whole film as I did for once scene in Miami Vice.” He also said that Woody has a great sense of blocking a scene.

Woody wasn’t sure if his speed was due to efficiency. The press laughed when he said that he was not a dedicated filmmaker; that he was actually lazy since films are not the be all and end all of his life. He figures if a scene’s been done well, he can just finish up so he can get home to his family or a basketball or baseball game. He also got laughs when he said that he first made movies to meet women, adding that he went into the industry with base motives not high aspirations.

It was also suggested that Woody was now an exile from New York, since his last few films were shot overseas. Allen said that some of the change came from the US studios who told him that they weren’t just a bank and wanted input into his scripts and casting. He said that the European financiers were much more accommodating, basically giving him a bag of money and sending him on his way. He joked that he always wanted to be a foreign director and now he was.

Farrell and McGregor, who have both worked on some pretty high budget films, agreed that the US studios had so many fingers in those productions and the endless shoots and reshoots were dictated by executives who were trying to minimize risk by working until the films appealed to the lowest common denominator. Asked why he still made films like that, Farrell joked that it was something about all the zeroes at the end of the cheque.

At the press conference for Reservation Road, Joaquin Phoenix was quite spirited during his press conference as he preferred to joke with co-star Mark Ruffalo rather than answer any questions.

Meanwhile, the scream factor was at its highest for Rachel McAdams and that was mostly from the press photogs.

TIFF Day Seven Photo Galleries