Toronto’s film festival isn’t content to do just one, or even two, major gala premieres a night like, say, Cannes. No, it has about 10 of them and Friday night was really buzzing with at least four major ‘must-see’ events all coinciding. Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master premiered in North American to a sold-out crowd at the massive Princess Of Wales theatre and sparked lots of immediate Oscar talk just like in Venice. (The Master And Joaquin Phoenix Draw Raves.) The acting from Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, particularly in a killer scene near the end, doesn’t get much better than this. And controversy about whether it really is – or isn’t – about the beginnings of Scientology will only spark more interest. But with the Oscar season just getting going in earnest, a lot of contenders are finally emerging.
Just as it did in its sneak previews in Telluride, Ben Affleck’s Argo killed in Toronto at its official World Premiere Friday at the Roy Thomson Hall. And why not? After all, some of the plot revolves around the Canadians helping to shelter 6 Americans from the radical Iranians who held nearly 60 others hostage for well over a year in 1979. And the Warner Bros brass turned out in force seeing the film receive a highly enthusiastic standing ovation. That included Jeff Robinov, Sue Kroll, Dan Fellman who know they have a likely hit on their hands.
At the after-party, director/star Affleck told me this was one of the best screenings he has ever had for a movie. “They got every reference and recognized all the Canadian names we put in there,” he said. After the highs of the Fall festival circuit, Affleck is just hoping filmgoers turn out when it opens October 12th. “I am doing something I haven’t done for a movie in years and hitting many different cities to promote the film,” he told me.
Making the trek to Toronto was co-star Bryan Cranston, the three-time Emmy winner and current nominee for Breaking Bad. He superbly plays Affleck’s CIA boss who okays the crazy plan to create a fake movie production in order to smuggle the 6 Americans out of the Canadian Ambassador’s residence and onto a plane out of Iran without the radical officials figuring it all out.
Cranston told me he knew it was something special the minute he read the script. “It was all there on the page. As an actor you just pray for these kinds of parts,” he said. It was the first film actually allowed to shoot at the CIA headquarters although they confiscated his iPad in the process. Cranston is a brand new voting member of the Academy and told me he is very excited about getting to fill out an Oscar ballot for the first time. Maybe he can vote for himself. Both he and Alan Arkin who plays the producer of the fake film are deserving of supporting consideration. Cranston still has another 8 episodes of Breaking Bad to complete before the series ends for good next summer. He has no idea what will happen. “I never know which direction the writers are going to take us,” he said.
Warner Bros also has another film premiering in Toronto Saturday night, Cloud Atlas, the 2 hour-45 minute epic spanning centuries that features Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent and others in multiple roles. It also has three directors including the Wachowski siblings and Tom Twyker. It’s highly ambitious and the studio is hoping it finds its audience when it goes wide on October 26th. As one exec told me, the people who love it really love it. It’s certainly a different and audacious piece of filmmaking, and the studio is anxious to see audience reaction here. They don’t have long to wait.
Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.