Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Toronto Film Festival Diaries
Day 10

by Henri Béhar

Toronto, Sept. 13, 1997

There's a bodyguard every yard at the Four Seasons Hotel. The reason is Brad Pitt is to attend the ´ Seven Years in Tibet ' press conference, with director Annaud, co-star David (´ Naked ') Thewlis and the kid from Bhutan who plays the Dalai-Lama. The room is packed. TV cameras everywhere, tape-recorders, walkie-talkies. Pitt incredibly blond - his hair bleached for the film he's presently shooting. The reaction last night and this morning was mixed, and they all know it. Pitt plays the part of Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian explorer-athlete whose Nazi ties were revealed by a German publication in February 1997, after principal photography was completed (the man is still alive). ´ Not revealed: confirmed ', director Jean-Jacques Annaud points out. ´ In pre-WW2-Germany, an athlete of such high profile, who had taken part in the Olympic games, could only, by his very position, be coopted by the Nazi power, even if he were not a sympathizer. ' The film doesn't skirt the issue: in the opening scene, there are swastikas galore at the train station where Harrer's departure is celebrated; elsewhere, when Pitt displays his press book, you catch a glimpse of a photograph of him with Hitler at the Olympic Games. A couple of lines were added to the dialogue during post-production to make the Nazi connection clearer to American audiences who, unlike Europeans, have not seen their countries invaded and occupied.

In real life, Pitt talks a lot with his hands. As he passionately describes how one feels when one is suspended ´ up there ' on the mountain, he is so bombarded with flashes from photographers that he pauses mid-sentence - ´ Come on, guys '. When that happens again, he sits on his hands and cuts his answers to three paragraphs max. Sure, he's a superstar and all that, but you can't help feeling for the guy.

The Best Line Award, however, went to the extraordinarily handsome, extraordinarily serious 13-year-old kid from Bhutan who plays the dalai-lama. Asked how he felt about portraying His Holiness, he began his reply with ´ Neither in this life, nor in my next one... ' Asked how he felt about filmmaking, he exercised utmost diplomacy: ´ It's a lifetime experience. ' (Kissinger is but an amateur). Would he like to pursue an acting career? Pause. Long pause. ´ Sure. ' Pause. ´ But my education is more important right now. '

There is not one, but three closing night.parties. At the official one, a glossy, crowded affair on the lake, you drop in, hug whom you want to hug, kiss whom you want to kiss, exchange business cards, phone numbers and promises you'll call each other next week, or whenever you're in New York, L.A., Chicago, Denver or Shreveport. Huge crowds by the VIP section cordonned off by impressive bodyguards. ´ Brad Pitt! Brad Pitt! Brad Pitt! ' squeal the lucky ones that catch a glimpse of His Blondness. By the quality of the squeals - and we use the word liberally - you can detect whether Pitt is drinking, chatting, eating, or smiling. What a life!

At the staff party - the hardest-to-get invite in town - you let it all hang out and dish, dish, dish. Everyone's exhausted, everyone's running on adrenaline. But it's party time.

The juiciest addendum, however, was the reggae party that followed the screening of Jamaican film ´ Dancehall Queen '. As energetic and just as explicit, in a good-nature sort of way, as ´ Boogie Nights '. And reggae we do, unabashedly, wholeheartedly.

At the Bistrot 990, come dawn (where did the night go?), one is told Mich'le Maheux, the Festival's director of communications, has gone into labor and was taken to the hospital. Money changes hands as those who bet that out of sheer will power Maheux would hold back until *after* the awards brunch, pay up.

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