Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: I’ve watched the first five hours of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, and it took that many hours for me to get past the unequivocal exit of Michael Pitt’s Jimmy Darmody character. Pitt has committed to star in The First, a new feature film about the life of Hollywood legend Mary Pickford that will begin production in 2013. He will play Owen Moore, Pickford’s first husband. Ryan Simpkins has been cast to play a young Pickford. Lily Rabe was already set to play Mary Pickford in her salad years.

Rabe and Pitt will join filmmakers Julie Pacino and Jennifer DeLia and their partner Said Zaharoui in Toronto next week. They will co-host an opening night party September 6th at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. The party is meant to fete the memory of the Toronto-born Pickford and create awareness for the film, which will be produced by Pacino and DeLia’s Poverty Row Entertainment, and directed by DeLia. The event will also be hosted by Poverty Row partners Paramax Films and Monde Ouest from Paris, as well as Toronto’s Windsor Arms Hotel, which was built in 1927 and is often associated with Pickford’s heyday. Rare footage of the esteemed actress from the Pickford Foundation archives will be on display during the celebration.

“I got to know Julie and Jennifer while they were in Toronto working on ‘Billy Bates,” said TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey. “We met a couple of times in TIFF Bell Lightbox while our Mary Pickford exhibition was on. Just by chance they checked out the show, learned that Pickford was born a Toronto girl and before you know it I hear they’re working on a movie about her. I love that our Pickford show was the spark that got this movie off the ground. I can’t wait to see it – with any luck, back here in the Lightbox.”

The film covers Pickford’s life from a woman’s point of view as she rose to powerhouse status in a male-dominated fledgling business. Pickford, along with Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and D. W. Griffith, created United Artists to be their own stomping grounds where they could be bosses instead of employees.

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