Daniel Radcliffe raises Toronto International Film Festival star quality

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TORONTO -- Someone thought by using his full name -- "Daniel Radcliffe" -- or politely begging, "Daniel, please!" that he might move over to his left beyond the red carpet outside the Ryerson Theatre.

One young woman wondered if she made a run for it, would she be able to reach the "Harry Potter" star before the guards got her. She disappeared into the darkness, leaving four 20-year-olds from Brock University in St. Catharines (Ryan Gosling's mom graduated from there in 2012 with an education degree) at their post along the interlocking metal barricades Saturday at 8:30 p.m.

Keeragh Robertson, Casandra Miller, Lindsay Earle and Jessica Marra had been stationed outside the venue since noon to see Mr. Radcliffe and those who came before him at the Toronto International Film Festival. They had been rewarded there, and on Friday at Roy Thomson Hall, with glimpses of Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, Tom Welling, Paul Giamatti, Amy Poehler and others as part of a girls' weekend, and the onetime "Potter" star was a delightful bonus, even if he didn't venture down to their part of the line.

Enjoying an even better vantage point, not to mention a shout-out on stage from the director of "The F Word" were 18 members of the Shapira family from Pittsburgh and Youngstown, Ohio, here to support Jesse Shapira, an executive producer of the movie starring Mr. Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan. "The F Word" had its world premiere Saturday night to a packed house, which gave it a very warm reception.

"Getting Daniel was just a huge coup," said Mr. Shapira, who now lives in Los Angeles, before taking his place on the red carpet for photographers. "Daniel has never played a role like this in a romantic comedy," he said, and this represents a chance to show a different kind of talent than required by the J.K. Rowling adaptations.

They play friends who try to resist their obvious attraction. She has a longtime boyfriend and he hates the idea of infidelity, due to his parents' divorce and ex-girlfriend's affair.

In fact, Mr. Radcliffe flashes a winning, funny, romantic side, not to mention a bare bottom for a brief skinny dipping scene in Lake Ontario (the movie mainly is set in Toronto) he and Ms. Kazan cited as a favorite. "We really braced ourselves, thinking it was going to be horrible and I think we ended up having a really good time," he said of the beach scene in a question and answer session afterward.

"It was huge fun. Any of us who spent 10 years doing 'Potter,' we're all now all very, very excited to get out and do as many different things as we can. I'm a huge fan of the romantic comedy genre," Mr. Radcliffe said from the stage afterward, acknowledging he's become more relaxed on set and stage with each new job.

A year ago, the festival launched "Argo" into Oscar's eventual embrace. This year, a handful of movies or performances -- Chiwetel Ejiofor in "12 Years a Slave," the technically dazzling "Gravity," the shocking way Matthew McConaughey transformed himself to play an AIDS patient who defied the 30-day death sentence given to him upon diagnosis -- have stood out although no single film has emerged as a favorite.

Some other snapshots from the festival which will end on Sunday:

Too much of a good thing: For "Labor Day," Jason Reitman's adaptation of Joyce Maynard's novel, Josh Brolin learned to make peach pie as demonstrated in the movie. "Josh made a pie every single day," the director said and at first it was really charming but by the end, it was, "Oh [expletive], he made me a pie."

Pathway to "Prisoners": To play the father of a little girl who disappears on Thanksgiving, Hugh Jackman researched sleep deprivation. "The movie takes place in eight or nine days and I read something from a father whose kid was gone who said the most maddening part of the whole thing was the powerlessness of a parent that knowing your child is waiting for you ... they're not waiting for the police to come rescue them," and to sleep is to fail your child in a way.

Pathway to stardom: More than 1,000 actresses auditioned for the "12 Years a Slave" role of Patsey, won by Kenyan Lupita Nyong'o.

The Louisiana slave owner played by Michael Fassbender in "12 Years a Slave" becomes obsessed with her, raping and punishing her in harrowing scenes. Director Steve McQueen said, "It was like searching for Scarlett O'Hara; it was a quest."

CumberCollective alert: Benedict Cumberbatch, who seems to be working (and excelling) nonstop these days, joked he apparently had 10 days off in the summer and they went by in a bit of a blur. But then he quotes that line about how "a change is as good as a rest."

That may not apply during film festivals, but he changed into Julian Assange for "The Fifth Estate," one of the family members in "August: Osage County" and a plantation owner in "12 Years a Slave." He changed into a very smart blue suit befitting his slender frame, gray tie and crisply folded white handkerchief in his breast pocket for a round of interviews at the Ritz Carlton, where fans waited outside.

It's easy to demonize Assange or see him as a sacrificing champion for social justice but the actor aimed for a well-rounded look in the movie opening Oct. 18.

"It was important to me to portray him as a three-dimensional human being, and not get into a slugging match about whether he was good or bad. I wanted to portray human characteristics about a man at the forefront of an incredible media revolution with incredible ideas ... and not get bogged down in character assassination, which is so easy to come by because people want a headline. They want to grab something and run with a two-dimensional story.

"I like the way the film tackles that, I like the way that Julian talks about his appraisal in The New York Times for getting equal billing for the state of his socks as for collateral murder kind of highlights that idiocy, so it was important to me to portray him in a balanced way."

The movie's production notes mention the actor established a private, personal email connection with the WikiLeaks founder. But he wasn't turning whistleblower on whatever communications were exchanged.

"I tried to justify my reasons for doing the project and that was where that ended," he said.

"It mattered to me a lot that he felt so passionately but I wanted to persuade him that it wasn't necessarily going to be as bad as he feared it would be," particularly after someone leaked a very old draft of the script (which the actor never saw) to Mr. Assange.

The fictional Assange gets the last word in what Mr. Cumberbatch reminds everyone is a dramatization of events. "While it was informative, it was important for me to always remember that this is a perspective, not the perspective."

As he was leaving the room, someone tossed the "Star Wars" question his way. "No yes or no no. No offer, it's all rumor, it's gossip. No one's been offered other than the people we know have been offered parts. So, would I like to do it? I've said many times of course I would."

J.J. Abrams hired him before, for "Star Trek Into Darkness" and he knows where he lives. "It's all up to the boss."


Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies. First Published September 9, 2013 4:45 AM


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