By William Wolf


The Toronto International Film Festival 2004 demonstrated once again, as if there were any need for proof, that the event attracts celebrities in droves. The prestige that the festival has acquired through the years makes the venue a good one for showcasing latest films and worthwhile for directors and stars to target. Press conferences are the more formal events, but the notables also turn up at galas and grant one-on-one or group interviews.

For the movie “Kinsey,” for example, the major attractions were Liam Neeson and Laura Linney. Neeson stressed that no matter how much research one did into the real Alfred Kinsey in portraying him, “At the end of the day all acting is an act of imagination.” Linney allowed herself to respond quickly to a sexual question, then when she was left out on a limb as the only one who did, she may have regretted her candor.

In “Kinsey,” in which Neeson plays the man whose report on sexuality shook up the United States and Linney plays his wife, there is discussion of assigning numbers from zero to six to designate possibilities of interest in the same sex. Linney was asked at the press conference how she would rate herself. She said number two. Neeson got out of the question by saying that Kinsey and his researchers never talked about their own sexuality. It was all quite amusing.

One of the most pleasurable opportunities afforded by the press conferences was a chance to see and hear Annette Bening, who in “Being Julia” plays an actress dissatisfied with her life and having to deal with a newcomer who is encroaching on her on the stage and in relationships with her lover and her husband.

“I wanted to be a stage actress,” the charming, and clearly intelligent Bening noted concerning her being cast to play a woman of the theater. “I hadn’t thought about being a movie actress.” Her early experience was on the stage. She said that what is particularly inviting about the theater is that it addresses her “love of language.” She also noted that her age was that of the character depicted and said, “I hope I can go on playing roles in relation to the time of life I’m in.”

Jeremy Irons, who plays the actress’ difficult produce-director-husband in “Being Julia,” was another hit on the celebrity circuit. At the press conference, he quipped, “It was delightful to be able to play my true character.”

Andy Garcia came to Toronto to promote his film “Modigliani,” in which he stars as the colorful but tragic artist. The handsome actor told a crowded press conference: “It would be an honor for any actor to play Modigliani. When I got the role I agreed without reading the script.”

With the big roster of stars listed for theToronto-bound, festival enthusiasts were watching for the likes of Sean Penn, Kevin Spacey, Natasha Richardson, Kevin Bacon, Joseph Fiennes, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Dustin Hoffman, Lili Tomlin, Helen Hunt, Susan Sarandon, Jamie Foxx, Hilary Swank, Benjamin Bratt, Mark Wahlberg, Gael García Bernal, Chris Noth, Nick Nolte and a host of others. The situation was a far cry from the early festival years, when catching a major star or director was considered more of a coup.


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