Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Toronto Film Festival Diaries
Day 3

by Henri Béhar

Toronto, Sept. 6, 1997

The morning is shot: gone to bed or not, we all set our alarm clocks at 4 am to watch Princess Diana's funeral.

Major interview with Samuel L. Jackson in today's Globe and Mail. ´ Before he was ëdiscovered' in ëPulp Fiction' three years ago, ' says the introduction, ´ Samuel L. Jackson was almost too good an actor, he disappeared into his roles so well audiences frequently didn't recognize him from one movie to the next. His bible-thumping, burger-munching hitman landed him an Oscar nomination. Now he is recognized, whatever he plays.

´ 'I always thought you were supposed to disappear in your roles... Remember when they did a tribute to Laurence Olivier at the Oscars ? They showed this image of his face on the screen, and gradually morphed it from one of his movie roles into another. The audience just sat there remembering all these different ways he looked and all these great parts. I keep thinking : What if you were up there and were exactly the same person in every role ?' '

Samuel L. Jackson is in town for ´ Eve's Bayou ' He's known actress-cum-first-time director Kasi Lemmons since the 1970s when he started working in the theatre.

´ The first rule is You always help friends. That's the main reason I took this part. After that, it was because I like the idea of doing a small family drama about this interestingly conflicted man. ' When was the last time you heard the words ´ decency ' and ´ loyalty ' used in connection with show-business? Meanwhile, Jackson keeps mum about Quentin Tarantino's new film, ´ Jackie Brown ', in which he plays the lead.

The ´ L.A. Confidential ' press conference is a howler. Kim Basinger is absent (her flight in was delayed), Kevin Spacey is two minutes late (traffic), Guy Pearce is everyone's favorite 'discovery' (where were you, guys, when ´ Priscilla ' came out?) and Russell Crowe looks like an unmade bed (How come I missed *that* party?). Novelist James Ellroy fires one-liners galore. Best definition I've heard of Los Angeles: ´ Come on vacation, leave on probation. ' Asked whether he is now toying with the idea of directing, he replies that no, he's a novelist first and foremost. He's been asked the same question a week ago during a symposium he attended with director Curtis Hansen, and he gave the same answer. ´ The journalist asked: 'Why knock it before you try it?' I replied: 'Well, I haven't f-cked a porcupine either, but I don't think I'd like it.' '

Press screening of Lee Tamahori's ´ The Edge '. Starring Sir Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin and model-turned-actress Elle Macpherson, the surviving-in-the-Canadian-North epic, complete with gigantic Kodiak bear, was scripted by David Mamet. Something wonderful about Mamet. Whether he writes for the stage, the screen, radio, what have you, you can close your eyes, the voice - the beat - is unmistakeably his. Sharp, firm, incisive, dynamic. 20th Century Fox hosts a pour at Montana, on Front Street, for ´ The Edge '. A couple of doors down, at the Glenn Gould Studio, Sydney Poitier, Samuel L. Jackson and other black actors, filmmakers and writers gather for the 8th annual Reel Black Awards.

Gala screening of ´ L.A. Confidential '. Basinger, who's finally arrived and looks dazzling despite the jet-lag, Spacey, Ellroy, Crowe, Pearce and Hansen introduce the film to wild applause. Spacey skips the screening for a private dinner with a bunch of friends then joins the official party.

Middle of the night: catching up with ´ The Vanishing Product ' symposium on Rodgers-TV. David Cronenberg has no film in the festival, but along with director Ron Mann and CBC-TV producer-director Norman Campbell, the ´ Crash ' and ´ Dead Ringers ' helmer issues a rousing call for the preservation of Canada's audio-visual heritage. "This is for me a very emotional subject. It's not a dry archivist's desire to preserve everything no matter what value it has. For a filmmaker, it's terrifying, ' he says, referring to the fact that even a hugely successful mainstream movie like ´ Lawrence of Arabia ' (1962), required extraordinary effort to restore it. Norman Campbell adds that the earliest CBC-TV productions are gone forever, as programs from the early '50s were routinely discarded ´ because they valued the metal in the reels '. Situation more than serious: desperate. Worldwide. And it will get worse with the proliferation of channels that require a faster turnover of ´ software '.

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