TORONTO -- Actors latch onto many things when creating a character, from clothing to tics to the timbre of their voices.
During the Toronto International Film Festival, the cast of "Prisoners" (except Viola Davis, who was absent) and director Denis Villeneuve fielded questions about the intense, dark kidnapping thriller. Here is just some of what they had to say:
Maria Bello, who plays the mother of a missing girl: "I said when I was doing the costume fitting, it doesn't feel right for her to ever change her clothes. She's stuck in this moment, in this day, she cannot, it's a week and you see my hair get greasier and I really did not shower." At least for part of that time.
Paul Dano, whose character is suspected in the disappearance of girls ages 6 and 7: "I believe my first impression of the character was about his voice, and I think that was the one thing I said to you [looking at the director], if I'm going to do this, I have this impression of somebody who stopped at a certain age and almost everything stopped then. So, I think the voice was my first gateway to the character."
Terrence Howard, the father of a missing girl, on how he was "the woman in the relationship": "If there's any kind of tic, it's that nonstop heartbeat, that mean streak of morality that was constantly running up his spine that prevented him from taking necessary steps to provide for the safety and returning of his child."
He was reminded of his childhood when his great-great grandmother would tell him in troubled times, "Just be still, Terry. Just be still, Terry. Wait on God and everything will work its way out."
And that is what he thought in looking at Hugh Jackman's character, manic with rage and frustration: "Just be still."
Jake Gyllenhaal, a police detective leading the investigation: The actor would spend the evenings letting go of what they did during the day and indulging in some food therapy at nearby Atlanta restaurants.
On the way to work, however, he would meditate on certain things in a scene and watch police interrogation or what he called "horrific" videos.
"I could feel that push and pull inside me as I drove to work. Sometimes it would panic me. Sometimes when you see things, you watch something like that, you don't even know how to respond, it's so visceral -- interrogation or police footage of whatever it might be. It really broke me into this world."
Hugh Jackman, the father of a missing child who butts heads with Mr. Gyllenhaal's cop: "One of the scenes we have together is in the cop car where I've just bought a bottle of liquor and when we shot that scene, it is very much about these two coming to a head ...
"Nearing the end of the scene, Jake said, 'I feel like we're missing something' and I said, 'What's that?' and he goes, 'There's an element to this. Let's see what happens if we acknowledge the fact that they actually need each other.' It was a light-bulb moment for me. ... It's supersmart in terms of the themes, the idea of the individual and the institutional and they do need to work together.
"There is no playbook for that. You see this happening right now with Syria. There's no right answer. It's why presidents get gray hairs within six months. This movie exists in that fact that there's no right answer, that there's always collateral damage.
"That it is not easy, there is moral ambiguity and this is life, and very rarely do we see it in cinema. And very rarely do we get an opportunity in a thriller, particularly, where you get a chance to ruminate on that long after you leave the cinema."