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Q&A: David Schwimmer gets serious

Actor-director abandons comedy for the hard-hitting 'Trust' 

David Schwimmer returns to Toronto with "Trust," his hard-hitting follow-up to his comedic directorial debut, "Run, Fatboy, Run," which premiered at TIFF in 2007. "Trust" stars Clive Owen and Catherine Keener as parents dealing with the aftermath of an attack on their daughter by an online sexual predator.

The Hollywood Reporter: This is not an easy topic to tackle. What drew you to this?

David Schwimmer: I first got the idea seven years ago when this father spoke at the annual fundraiser for this rape foundation. He spoke very openly and frankly to an audience of about 900 people about his experience when his daughter was brutally raped. And it was so devastating to me to hear a father who was obviously a regular guy, a professional, with a happy family, three kids. And so normal. And to hear him speak about what happened to him and the conflicting feelings of guilt, responsibility, and incapacitating rage he described, it almost destroyed him and his family. And I thought, 'I want to make this into a movie.' I've never seen this before, a story of a dad who collapses, and the relationship between a father and a daughter dramatized in this way. So I started doodling around with it, doing research, meeting with victims, child victims, interviewing parents. I befriended an FBI agent who works closely with a rape treatment center and saw how they go about their job of trying to find these guys once the crime is committed, talking to counselors and their process. It's been a long haul.

THR: This couldn't be more different than "Run, Fatboy, Run."

Schwimmer: It's true. And I had less money and fewer days to shoot this than 'Fatboy.' The subject matter is different. I love both. I'm a film buff and I love comedies and I love dramas. There are plenty of directors that I admire who work in both worlds.

THR: You could have followed up "Run, Fatboy, Run" with another comedy.

Schwimmer: It's true. But I couldn't get this story out of my head. I just really wanted to do this next. I got sent a lot of comedy scripts and I met on a few. To be honest, because one movie takes so much out of you, it's at least a two-year commitment, I'd rather direct something that means something to me than being a hired gun on the next broad comedy. It's more personal. So I decided to do this instead of another comedy.

THR: How did "Run, Fatboy, Run" prepare you for "Trust"?

Schwimmer: The biggest thing I learned was something that didn't help for "Trust": I needed more money and more time. And that wasn't up to me. But one of the biggest things I learned from 'Fatboy' was that I wished we had been harder on the script before shooting began. So (writer) Andy Bellin and I were pretty tough on this script.

THR: Was it tough to get financing? It's an issue-oriented drama, after all.

Schwimmer: This was a harder film to get made and released. Once Clive Owen signed on, we had a green light. Still, it was a low budget indie precisely for the reason you said. It's a great unknown and a big risk for anyone investing in a movie like that. And I'm not exactly Ron Howard.

THR: "Run, Fatboy, Run" was set in Britain and starred British actors. You have a British star in "Trust." And your fiancee is British. Do you have a thing for England?

Schwimmer: I guess I do. I didn't know I did. I've been lucky to work here and they've been such happy experiences. We shot "Band of Brothers" here. We did a few episodes of "Friends" here. And I directed episodes of "Little Britain USA" for HBO. I'm a fan of British talent you could say. That's not to say I would ever call my lady British talent. (laughs)

THR: Who do you think has the had most interesting career post-"Friends"?

Schwimmer: Let me think ... I think I'd be up there. (laughs). I'm happy with all the things I've done. I'd like more opportunity to act in film but then again, if I want that I can't go direct a movie for two years. It takes me out of the acting game if I do that.

THR: And your cohorts?

Schwimmer: Oh boy. I think they're all very different careers. I'm excited about Matt LeBlanc's new show. I think he intentionally stopped doing stuff for awhile so he could spend time with his daughter. I'm excited for him and for him working again with David Crane, who is one of the creators of "Friends."

THR: Now this is technically your third time at TIFF, right?

Schwimmer: The first time I was up there was for the Mike Figgis film "Hotel." The day we were supposed to premiere was the tragic day of Sept. 11. So the festival came to a halt. It was so surreal to be up there and not home when it was happening. The days before that, it was exciting and then that happened and, on a dime, things changed. It is weird to be going back up there. I can't not think of that when I go to Toronto.