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David Cronenberg’s a Killer

- September 5th, 2013

David Cronenberg killed Noah Cowan’s mother. Or so the artistic director of the TIFF Bell Lightbox claimed on Thursday.

It was all in service of movie magic. Cowan’s mother is veteran Canadian actress Nuala Fitzgerald. She appeared in the role of Juliana Kelly in the Toronto filmmaker’s 1979 horror movie, The Brood. Sitting with Cronenberg and TIFF director Piers Handling while they all introduced The Cronenberg Project, Cowan tweaked the director for what he did on set to Fitzgerald when Cowan was still a wee lad.

“She came home one day telling tall tales of being bludgeoned to death by a midget ina snow suit.” Given that young Noah was “a fan of all things perverse,” he was intrigued and not appalled at all.

Cronenberg, however, remains concerned. “I’m really sorry about that,” he said, hiding his mischief with a mock-serious tone. “I killed his mother and I apologize!”

With a grin, Cowan added: “But it really did confirm that, in the movies, anything is possible — even resurrecting your mother!”


- May 24th, 2012

CANNES — For her role in the new thriller The Paperboy, Lee Daniels talked a reluctant Nicole Kidman into sitting down with five women who claim they love men in prison, in some cases without ever meeting the man. Kidman said Thursday that this experience scared her and then proved useful.

“They told me stories that … wow! … and then I got scared,” Kidman told a Cannes Film Festival press conference. Part of that fear was professional. “I said to Lee: ‘I’m not going to be able to be real in this!’ ”

Kidman, an Australian beauty who dumbs down and trashes up for the film, plays a Florida women in love with a convicted killer on death row.  John Cusack plays the convict as a swamp-rat scumbag but Kidman’s character persists in loving him. The Paperboy, which is in competition at Cannes, is based on the Peter Dexter novel.

Kidman said she processed the insight she got from the five real women “and then it all just kind of happened and then I never had a hesitation about anything. I just went for it. That’s how it came together.”

In a startling revelation, Daniels said one of the women among the five was his sister, who “has written many men in prison” and plays Kidman’s best friend on-screen. Meanwhile, Daniels said he adopted and raised his own brother’s children, Clara and Liam, after that sibling was jailed for “many years” for murder. Just as haunting, Daniels’ father was an abusive man who ridiculed his son for being homosexual and then died in the line of service as a Philadelphia police officer. The film starts with the anatomy of a murder of an abusive, racist cop.

“Everybody, every character here, I know,” Daniels said of the world that Dexter conjured as fiction.



- May 24th, 2012

CANNES — John Cusack plays a Florida swamp-rat and scumbag in Lee Daniels’ new film, The Paperboy.
“I was thrilled!” Cusack said Thursday at the Cannes Film Festival, where The Paperboy is in competition. He called it a relief from other recent roles. “I felt I was let out of some cage somehow.”
When he first met Daniels (of Precious fame), the director insisted he could step up his game, telling Cusack: “I just think you’ve got more to give than you’ve been giving lately.” Cusack now calls that “music to an actor’s ears.”
Cusack has also just been cast as former U.S. president Richard Nixon in Daniels’ next film, The Butler. “I haven’t quite processed it yet,” Cusack said with a grin. Another Paperboy co-star, Matthew McConaughey, will appear as John F. Kennedy in the true story of a butler who serves a succession of presidents at the White House.


- May 18th, 2012


CANNES — So far at least, Brandon Cronenberg seems to be handling the pressures of being David Cronenberg’s son at the 65th Cannes Film Festival.

Both father and son have films in the official selection. David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis is in competition as Canada’s biggest name at Cannes 2012. Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral is in the parallel section, Un Certain Regard, where new talent is often showcased. Inevitably, media folks already are asking and will continue to ask the 32-year-old, Toronto-born Brandon about the connection, especially because his own film at least superficially recalls some of his famous father’s earlier work. And because both directors share actress Sarah Gadon in significant roles.
“It’s possible there are some legitimate comparisons to be made,” Brandon Cronenberg told Screen International in one of its Meet the Debutants stories. “But I’m really just doing what I find interesting, and if there is any thematic overlap with my father’s work, it’s to be expected, given that we share genes and he helped raise me.”
That is the kind of thoughtful answer — as opposed to a churlish or childish denial — that will take him a long way towards carving out his own cinematic niche. Cronenberg went on to say that “it’s beyond thrilling” to have his debut feature included at Cannes. Antiviral, which premieres on Saturday, is the story of a man who sells viruses from sick celebrities to their obsessed fans. But he gets infected himself and the game gets deadly.


- May 17th, 2012


CANNES — American actress Lily Rabe has been cast as the legendary Canadian superstar Mary Pickford in a new unnamed biopic, Poverty Row Entertainment announced Thursday.
Rabe is the 29-year-old daughter of two-time Oscar nominee Jill Clayburgh and Hurlyburly playwright-screenwriter David Rabe. She has appeared in film and TV shows but is best known for her Tony Award-winning stage work. The film’s producers, Said Zahraoui, Julie Pacino and Jennifer DeLia, are in Cannes now raising money for the production and taking meetings with actors to play a young Douglas Fairbanks, the dashing American actor who was married to Pickford from 1920 to 1936.
Pickford and Fairbanks joined forces with Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith to form their own Hollywood studio, United Artists, in 1919. That helped make Pickford, who was born and raised in Toronto and who proudly maintained her Canadian citizenship, become one of the most powerful women in Hollywood history. With Rabe as Pickford, the new film will look at the true story of America’s Sweetheart during the silent era.
The project is based on Eileen Whitfield’s biography, Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood. The producers said in a release that, “With the exception of a few select documentaries, this is the first feature film to portray Mary Pickford’s life and work, casting new light on one of the most influential and least understood artists in the history of popular culture.”
Actors are also needed for other key roles in the film, including Chaplin, Griffith, Pickford’s mother Charlotte Hennessy and Pickford’s best friend, screenwriter Frances Marion. Let’s hope some Canadian casting is coming, just for the symbolic value of connecting this portrait of Pickford’s life and times to her home country.
I am also intrigued to hear from readers about how interested they are in a Mary Pickford biopic.