41st Toronto International Film Festival Coverage: Day One

September 8th, 2016 by Ian Evans

It was a hot and muggy day in Toronto, but that didn’t prevent the heat going up a notch at Roy Thomson Hall as the cast of The Magnificent Seven — including Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Haley Bennett — walked the red carpet as part of the opening night gala of the 41st Toronto International Film Festival.

Director Antoine Fuqua, who previously brought Training Day and The Equalizer to the fest, called TIFF his lucky charm. At a press conference earlier in the day, he joked that the reason he cast Denzel was simple: “I just wanted to see Denzel Washington on a horse.”

If you aren’t aware of the film’s background, it follows in the footsteps of the 1960 western, which in turn was a reimagining of 1954’s The Seven Samurai, which was directed by Akira Kurosawa. Actor Chris Pratt said it was perhaps an unfair label to call it a remake suggesting that if he named a child Chad, does that make him a remake of all the previous Chads? In this version, Peter Sarsgaard plays a corrupt industrialist who murders and terrorizes the people of a mining town, prompting Haley Bennett’s character to seek out the help of a bounty hunter (Denzel Washington) who in turn puts together a team of gunslingers to take on the evil tycoon and his henchman.

Earlier in the day, I had a chance to screen Gimme Danger, Jim Jarmusch’s documentary about Iggy Pop and The Stooges. Iggy was just a Michigan boy named James Osterberg Jr. who found himself in a high school band doing the usual high school band things. That bored him and he began hanging out with blues musicians until one day “I smoked a big joint by the river and realized that I was not black.” But he had charisma. He had stage presence and he had a handle on how to write concise lyrics. Teaming up with guitarist Ron Asheton, drummer Scott Asheton, and bassist Dave Alexander, he formed The Stooges, who wowed their audiences around Michigan and beyond with their primal primitive sound and Iggy’s outrageous stage antics. Jarmusch lovingly follows the band through their rise, their fall and their subsequent reunions and expanding influence.

Finally, the festival’s popular Midnight Madness programme kicked off with Oscar-winner Brie Larson in the black comedy Free Fire. The Ben Wheatley black comedy about an IRA gun deal gone bad also stars Armie Hammer and Cillian Murphy.