Saturday, September 11, 2004


Saw Clean today, starring Maggie Cheung and Nick Nolte. Cheung and director/screenwriter Olivier Assayas were present to introduce the movie and showed up afterwards for a Q&A session. Clean stars Cheung as the drug-addicted wife of a once-good rock musician who, after a tragedy, must clean herself up and set her life back on track to regain custody of her son from his grandparents (played by Nick Nolte and Martha Henry). Don McKellar also makes an appearance early in the film as a business associate of Cheung's husband. The movie moves between Hamilton (!), Vancouver, Paris, and London as Cheung struggles to redefine her life.
Clean was a great movie, and it's easy to see how Maggie Cheung picked up the best actress award at Cannes this year. And Assayas even made a dingy, industrial shoreline in Hamilton appear as a beautiful backdrop to one scene of Cheung taking drugs to escape the conflict in her life.

Some tidbits from the Q&A:

- The script was written for Maggie Cheung by the director, Olivier Assayas. The two had worked together previously on Irma Vep, and Assayas wanted to find a story that would fit Cheung, but it took several years.
- Cheung's character in the movie is much like her real-life self, in that it is a character between cultures, with roots in many countries.
- Maggie Cheung likes singing, which influenced the storyline.
- Nick Nolte was not the first choice to play the grandfather; another actor had been selected, but shortly before shooting, his doctor called to say that he was ill and could not participate in the movie, and in fact died not long afterwards. When recasting, Assayas told his casting director that he wanted someone like Nick Nolte for the role, and it was suggested that he just contact Nolte, who quickly accepted.
- Assayas couldn't believe that Nolte was actually in the movie until he saw him in front of the camera.
- When casting in Canada, the first set of tapes sent to Assayas for each of the characters were all wrong, with the exception of the one for the grandmother, which was Martha Henry. Assayas said she was the ideal choice for the role.
- Many people who make appearances in the movie are real-life musicians, which lends an air of verisimilitude to the movie. Included are Tricky and David Roback. Cheung's husband in the movie is also a musician, and is currently working with Nick Cave.
- When casting Cheung's son in the movie, Assayas said that he must have seen every Eurasian child in North America. :-) He eventually picked a boy with no previous acting experience, because he felt child actors are generally spolied and lack spontaneity.
- When asked about her realistic portayal of a recovering drug addict, Cheung mentioned that it is not based on her own experiences, but both she and Assayas have had friends in various stages of recovery, some entering it, some in it, and some coming out of it.
- Assayas said he didn't want to sentimentalize the problem, and that he wanted to be more balanced and not have anyone purely good or purely bad.
- He was a bit nervous showing the movie in Toronto since much of it was shot here or in the area, and that the audience could easily compare it to the real-life version (in fact, one shot that is supposedly in Hamilton is actually on Bathurst Street in Toronto).
- For the festival, he is staying in the same hotel in which he stayed while filming the movie, which he found weird. :-)

Below is a picture of Olivier Assayas and Maggie Cheung at the Q&A (although with the poor quality of the shot, it really could be any two people :-))



My experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival. Note this blog is not affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival Group or the festival itself.
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