The Most Stylish Men Of Tiff 2015
MR PORTER meets the key talents at this year's Toronto International Film Festival
Mr Gael García Bernal co-stars in immigration thriller Desierto
There are a few boltholes around Toronto during the festival where the stars gather before and after their respective movie premieres away from the paparazzi flashbulbs. Last weekend, MR PORTER commandeered the upper bar of Soho House (which is one of them) and asked those actors and directors passing through to stop by for a drink. Several obliged.
“I feel like the entire population of Hollywood is in Toronto right now,” says Mr Michael Shannon in a thick Kentucky accent as he settles his imposing 6ft 3in frame into a battered leather Chesterfield sofa to talk about the premiere of his movie Freeheld. “I mean everybody is here.”
The significance of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is not lost on him. The festival, which turned 40 this year, has developed a reputation as a launching pad where talent takes off. (As Mr Eddie Redmayne did when The Theory of Everything premiered here last year.) “Toronto is a lens through which people figure out what to see, what not to see and what’s going to get attention for awards,” adds Mr Shannon as he takes a sip of red wine. You’d recognise him whether you’re a fan of blockbusters (he played General Zog in the Superman reboot Man of Steel) or menswear (he’s modelling in the current Prada campaign).
Find out below who has a penchant for nude sunbathing, what it’s like to grow up knowing your father is Batman, and just how close a mooted James Bond came to falling to his death while filming on location in Ghana.
Mr Tom Hiddleston
The prolific and versatile Mr Tom Hiddleston, 34, was at TIFF to promote his lead roles in two very different movies. High-Rise is an entirely British affair based on the book by Mr JG Ballard that details how a 40-storey London apartment block collapses into dystopian savagery. His other film I Saw the Light sees Mr Hiddleston portraying singer-songwriter Mr Hank Williams.
You’ve had a busy weekend.
Yes, very. High-class problems, I guess. It feels pretty good to spend just one weekend presenting almost an entire year of work to the world. And they couldn’t be more contrasting pieces.
High-Rise is an orgy of booze and sex set in a 1970s concrete apartment block.
That’s about right. Just like everyday life.
And you have some nude scenes.
I play a character who, at the beginning, is prone to nude sunbathing. So, yes, there is a degree of nakedness, which may or may not be regrettable.
Whereas in the Hank Williams biopic you are a rhinestone cowboy.
I doff my 10-gallon hat to the wardrobe department.
Did you ever doubt whether you, as an Englishman, could play the king of the hillbillies?
There were moments of doubt, but all the best things I’ve done have had moments of doubt. It’s about commitment in the end. I went to live with this multi-Grammy-winning artist in Nashville called Rodney Crowell for five weeks who was my tutor in the ways of the blues. I’d get up in the morning and run nine miles as I had to lose weight as Hank was so thin, then Rodney and I would sing for seven hours a day.
How have the Williams family reacted to you in the role?
I’ve heard from Holly Williams, who is Hank’s granddaughter. She wrote me the most unbelievable letter; one of those letters you keep forever. She said: “It’s not been an easy family because he left some things behind, but you treated everybody with respect and without judgment.” Which was just such a huge relief for us.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I had a teacher at drama school at RADA [Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts] who told me: “Never look over your shoulder and never look back.” Which is so true and applicable in so many situations. You can’t compare yourself to other people, and looking back isn’t helpful.
What are the rules you live by?
Be kind. Be on time. Take the work seriously – don’t take yourself too seriously.
I Saw The Light opens on 27 November. High-Rise’s release date is yet to be announced
Mr Cary Joji Fukunaga
After spending two years directing the universally admired first series of HBO’s True Detective, Mr Fukunaga, 38, went to Ghana for six months to film Beasts of No Nation, for which he also wrote the screenplay. Mr Idris Elba plays a west African tyrant who recruits child soldiers for his army. In a controversial move, Netflix acquired the movie for $12 million and will be streaming it in parallel with the cinematic release.
Is the traditional 90-day window between a movie’s big-screen and small-screen release now a thing of the past?
If this system works, then yes. Things are changing. This is a democratic moment in cinema.
Is it true Idris Elba nearly fell to his death during filming?
Ha ha, not quite. He leaned on what he thought was a tree, but which turned out wasn’t a tree. Luckily, our AD [Assistant Director] was there to grab him. He would’ve tumbled a few feet, but I don’t think he would have fallen to his death.
Good job because (potentially) that’s the future James Bond we’re talking about.
James Bond would’ve cartwheeled out of it and landed on a jet ski at the bottom.
When you won an Emmy for True Detective, your man-braid became famous overnight. Why did you give it the chop?
I liked having long hair: it was very easy – zero product, up in a man-bun. But it got annoying when I was shooting this movie in west Africa, so it was time to clean it all up.
Beasts of No Nation is a movie about child soldiers – and it’s very gruesome in places, isn’t it?
This movie asks a lot of the audience. As a director, I ask myself: “What am I contributing to the world?" I’m not satisfied in just distracting people from everyday life, I like to lead people to something, to make them ask questions. I want people to still be talking about this film in 10 years’ time.
What rules do you live by?
I always stick to my word. If I say I am going to do something, I do it.
Beasts of No Nation will be released concurrently on Netflix and in some cinemas on 16 October
Mr Michael Shannon
Freeheld is a true story based on the short 2007 documentary of the same name. It concerns New Jersey police officer Ms Laurel Hester’s fight, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, to allow her pension benefits to be transferred to her domestic partner Ms Stacie Andree. Mr Michael Shannon, 41, plays Mr Dane Wells, Ms Hester’s long-term police partner.
Do you think Freeheld adds something to the conversation about equality for same-sex couples?
Laurel never wanted to be seen to be any sort of spokesperson for a movement. She just wanted the woman she loved to be taken care of. It’s a very simple thing she’s asking for. But she wound up becoming this heroic figure. I still think there is a stigma attached to people’s sexuality for most people. How do we completely eradicate that? I don’t know.
What role does your character Dane play in all this?
When Dane found out that Laurel was not going to be able to give her pension to Stacie, he intervened. He testified on her behalf and made beautiful speeches. He went to every meeting and was one of her most staunch supporters.
How do you feel personally about marriage as an institution?
Oh, me? Have you done any research? Yes, that’s why you’re asking me this question. I think it’s horseshit. I don’t intend to ever get married to anybody. Both of my parents were married five times so it’s hard for me to take it very seriously.
You’re about to start filming Mr Tom Ford’s next movie Nocturnal Animals.
Yes, we’re filming that in October. I play a detective who is trying to solve a gruesome crime. My part of it is set in Texas, which is where Tom is from.
The wardrobe should be good.
It looks like I am going to be wearing cowboy boots and a Stetson.
Freeheld is released on 2 October
Mr Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Mr Gael García Bernal
Mr Jeffrey Dean Morgan
In Desierto, a group of desperate people trying to cross the border from Mexico to a new life in the US encounter Sam (Mr Jeffrey Dean Morgan, above) – an unhinged man who takes it upon himself to act as a vigilante border patrol officer. He guns down the immigrants one by one until he is left hunting Moises (Mr Gael García Bernal, below) through the desert in a sinister game of cat and mouse.
Mr Morgan, have you seen the finished movie yet?
No, and I can’t even watch it tonight [at the world premiere]. I literally flew in to walk the red carpet, and then I will keep on walking to a car that is taking me back to the airport as I have to be on set in New York at 5.30am tomorrow. I’m in the middle of filming a series of The Good Wife right now. It’s a shame because I really want to see people’s reaction to what is a controversial movie.
The issue of immigration is a hot topic on both sides of the Atlantic, what with the refugee crisis in Europe and Mr Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda…
My character would be voting for [Mr] Donald Trump for sure. But I don’t believe in closed-off borders. These are people that have families and want to make a better life for themselves. They’re not criminals. It’s good to do a movie that gets people talking.
There’s very little talking in the actual film.
My character spends the whole film alone. I don’t talk to anybody. I have conversations with my dog, and there is one phone call that you don’t hear the other side of, so there’s not a lot of dialogue. It was a challenging role to play.
Not least because your character is a murderous racist. Why take on such a part?
For the acting challenge of trying to make sense of him. He was, on the surface, so bad that it was about trying to find the human side that made him become this man. And without a lot of dialogue you have to find other forms: what’s going on with his eyes and his face, and if he has a breakdown at a certain point.
Mr Bernal, are the themes explored in Desierto close to your heart?
Yes, because I’m a migrant myself, my kids are migrants and my parents were migrants. And I will probably keep on migrating. A lot of people are now realising that forced migration exists. It’s not a choice. It’s happening because of civil wars, political, financial and ecological reasons.
This movie is directed by Mr Jonás Cuarón and produced by his father Alfonso and his uncle Carlos – all of whom you worked with on Y Tu Mamá También. Was it like a family reunion?
It’s a really fun relationship. Alfonso is like a father figure sometimes. Carlos is like an older brother. Jonas is like the little bastard son that I slap! [Laughs.] No, I grew up with him and it’s great to see him find his own voice. It’s so natural as well. The moment we get together, the film has already begun. I’m so lucky that I am part of their family and they are part of mine. They’re my best friends.
Desierto's release date is yet to be announced
Mr Chiwetel Ejiofor
In the epic The Martian, directed by Mr Ridley Scott, astronaut Mark Watney (Mr Matt Damon) is presumed dead after being swept up in a windstorm during a manned mission to Mars, and is left behind with only a few days’ supplies. In this movie, Mr Chiwitel Ejiofor, the 38-year-old Londoner who was Oscar-nominated in 2013 for 12 Years A Slave, plays Venkat Kapoor, the man at NASA charged with trying to bring Watney home.
The Martian began life as a self-published e-book written by a Californian computer programmer named Andy Weir, right?
Andy, yeah. I just met him here in Toronto. I didn’t know about the book until Ridley introduced me to it. It’s amazing. I gather he is no longer a programmer, but has become a full-time novelist. The book is brilliant and the film can be taken on so many different levels. Either simply as pure entertainment, but on a deeper level it’s a film about community and personal responsibility, the value of human life and our responsibility to each other.
Did you get to hang out at NASA to research the role?
I spent time with the people at the European Space Agency studying the characteristics of those that work there and how they deal with stress and responsibility. These are some of the most mentally gifted people on the planet, and yet their interactions and office politics are similar to any work environment.
Are you personally good in a crisis?
The best piece of advice I ever got on this was from Arthur Abraham, the professor at the University of Sierra Leone [who was a consultant on Mr Ejiofor’s 1997 debut movie, Amistad]. He said you've got to take time to deal with issues one at a time. I wish I'd taken that advice more… When done, it can really work.
What rules do you live by?
I don’t think I live by rules, but I live by a moral and ethical code that is a combination of nature and nurture. And you just do your best.
The Martian is released on 2 October
Mr Jack Kilmer
Mr Jack Kilmer is the 20-year-old son of actors Mr Val Kilmer and Ms Joanne Whalley [formerly Kilmer]. In the low-budget indie Len and Company, Mr Kilmer plays a shy-and-aspiring rock musician seeking the approval of his legendary record producer father played, to darkly comic effect, by Mr Rhys Ifans.
Len and Company is all about a son’s relationship with his emotionally difficult dad. What is your relationship like with your dad?
Yeah there are parallels. In the movie, Len is a record producer and I’m trying to be a successful musician. In real life, my dad is a successful actor and I’m trying to be. Len is in the public eye and so is my dad, so I could really relate to that. But, unlike with Len, I get on really well with my dad – we’re good friends.
When you were a kid was it pretty awesome that your dad was Batman?
It actually wasn’t. I was a Batman fanatic when I was little and I thought I was Batman and I can remember having an argument with him. I said “You know you’re not Batman because that’s me.” I used to wear the Batman outfit every day.
You grew up by the beach as a surfer/ skater kid, right? So is that your off-screen style?
Lately, I’ve been wearing this khaki green shirt-jacket every day that I got at the flea market near my house in West Hollywood. I recently just refined everything and threw out loads of clothes. Now I only have three jackets – this one, my denim jacket and my parka. I’m definitely a flea market dude, but I do like Saint Laurent. I wore a Saint Laurent suit at the premiere last night. I don’t know whether I get to keep it though.
Len and Company’s release date is yet to be announced
Casting by SHO + CO