Toronto International Film Festival: Ben Affleck earns kudos for 'Argo'; 'Perks of Being a Wallflower' premieres
Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson at the West End Overlook during filming of "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" last year.
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TORONTO -- Big Ben is here. No, not that one, but Ben Affleck.
At least that's how one newspaper referred to the actor-director who is promoting "Argo" and collecting accolades for his all-star cast and movie that serves as a cinematic thank you to Canada for helping to smuggle six Americans out of Tehran during the Iran hostage crisis.
He plays a CIA "exfiltration" specialist in the movie, based on a true story, that also stars Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston and Victor Garber and those were just the actors in the first row of a double-decker platform at a Saturday news conference at the Toronto International Film Festival.
"Argo" is the third picture directed by Mr. Affleck ("Gone Baby Gone," "The Town") and he said of the cast, "If I got lucky on the first two, this was the lottery. What you see up here is an array of talented people that, really, make the movie. John Ford said directing was 90 percent casting, and it's in evidence here."
Pick a venue -- news conference, red carpet, premiere, Q&A, exclusive party at a swanky hotel or restaurant where reporters are summoned one by one as if for an audience with the queen -- and you will find a star of some note.
Johnny Depp supported the documentary "West of Memphis" about misfit Arkansas teens wrongfully convicted, imprisoned and (in one case) nearly put to death for the 1993 murders of three 8-year-olds, while Snoop Dogg delved into why and how he became Snoop Lion.
Kristen Stewart emerged from scandal-imposed hibernation for "On the Road," Ryan Gosling literally stopped traffic outside a screening of "The Place Beyond the Pines" and Emma Watson demonstrated her fashion flair at the premiere of "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."
"Perks" novelist, writer-director and Upper St. Clair native Stephen Chbosky has been blissfully learning about the perks of being a father.
He is coming to Pittsburgh later this month for a series of events, including some question-and-answer sessions, a book signing and a sort of farewell tour of the places where "Perks" filmed. He's hoping for a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" screening at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont, which is where he first saw the cult favorite and where it is staged in the movie.
Mr. Chbosky is that rare director who wishes for no movie mulligan.
"Look, to be a first-time studio director and to finish a movie and to look at the screen and say, if they gave me $20 million and another year to reshoot anything I wanted -- or gave me almost like a magic wand -- I wouldn't touch a frame of the movie. I wouldn't change a cast member, I wouldn't change a song and I'm really grateful to be able to say that and I'm proud to be able to say that. I'm not saying it's a perfect movie, by any stretch, but even the mistakes became part of what I think is charming about it.
"I think it's an authentic celebration of what it means to be young, and it's everything I wanted the movie to be," he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The movie opens in select cities on Sept. 21 and in Pittsburgh on Sept. 28.
Being young in 1962 London moved Elle Fanning to tears after seeing "Ginger & Rosa" for the first time -- and she's in the movie, as the red-haired daughter of Christina Hendricks. She plays a teen obsessed with the possibility of a nuclear holocaust, even as her home life is imploding.
Taking the Elgin Theatre stage alongside director Sally Potter and co-stars Hendricks, Alessandro Nivola and Alice Englert, she got so choked up she could barely speak. Dressed in a plaid purple jacket suit paired with platforms, she said, "It's really overwhelming" before crying just as she does in the movie.
Other snapshots from the festival which stretches through Sept. 16:
• Paul Thomas Anderson has no idea who Honey Boo Boo is, and it's a very (very) safe bet that she wouldn't recognize the name of the writer-director of such movies as "Magnolia," "There Will Be Blood" and, now, "The Master."
A question about the "cult of personality" and the American presidential race led to a crack about cable's "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" doing better than some of the TV coverage of the conventions.
That, in turn, prompted Mr. Anderson to mention that he has no idea who Honey Boo Boo is. And, you might swear he doesn't know much about Scientology, either, despite comparisons between the character played by Philip Seymour Hoffman in "The Master" and Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
"I just want to tell you I don't consider that we're dealing with a cult," Mr. Anderson said in response to a question that used that word. The optimism of post-World War II is tempered by "an incredibly large body count behind you. How can you feel really great about being victorious about something with so much death around?
"It kind of gets you to a spot where you've got to figure out where all the bodies [are] going, and that creates situations where people want to talk about past lives, they want to talk about what happens after you die." "The Master" suggests time travel and accessing events that happened in other lives are possible.
"Those are great ideas, I think, and they're hopeful ideas, and they're the kind of stuff that was fascinating to write the story around," he said, assiduously avoiding mentioning the name of Mr. Hubbard or even Scientology.
• Rian Johnson's "Looper," starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis as the young and old versions of the same character, is not a remake or based on a graphic novel or nostalgic TV show, as so many movies are. "I think the audience is phenomenally hungry for surprises. I know that I am when I go to the theater," he said, and that's what he delivers in the Sept. 28 release.
• Keira Knightley's costumes in "Anna Karenina" not only underscore the character's vanity but call to mind a caged bird. "We wanted that constant feel of being trapped," which explains a black facial veil in the bold, beautifully staged movie set largely within the confines of an old theater.
• Adam Sandler speaks for Count Dracula in "Hotel Transylvania" and his girls and their pals are mightily impressed that Selena Gomez plays his daughter in the animated movie. "It was just amazingly exciting to be in the car with my kids and say Selena's playing Mavis in the movie. And my kids were, 'No way! Do we get to meet her?' "
• So far, no single movie has emerged as an early Oscar front-runner although "Argo" and "The Master" have generated talk as have individual performances, including by Marion Cotillard as a whale trainer whose legs are amputated and John Hawkes as a polio patient seeking to lose his virginity in "The Sessions."
First Published September 10, 2012 11:30 am