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The pink-emblazoned clouds from the setting sun on Saturday night were a far cry from the previous 24 hours, where apocalyptic thunder and lightning engulfed Toronto, and was a gentle backdrop to The Hollywood Reporter’s 2nd Annual Breakthrough In Film Award cocktail reception which honored the talent behind Focus Features’ love drama, The Theory of Everything.
Director Paul Haggis, meanwhile, recounted to guests how his flight to Toronto was harrowingly rerouted to Ottawa, an experience repeated by many other festivalgoers flying into town.
If the weather was a top conversational topic, the top entourage of the evening was Everything’s group of Redmayne, Felicity Jones, and director James Marsh, the evening’s honorees, as well as screenwriter Anthony McCarten, and producers Eric Fellner and Lisa Bruce.
Marsh, Redmayne and Jones were presented with their Breakthrough in Film awards by THR Executive Editor Matt Belloni. Last year’s winners were Idris Elba and Naomie Harris, stars of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
It was Theory producer Bruce’s first time in Toronto and she had nothing but praise for the city: “I’ve been to the festivals in Cannes and Berlin. Cannes is all paparazzi and all industry but I’m loving seeing films here with a real audience. It feels like you’re getting a much more organic response to a movie.”
Bruce spent three years with McCarten convincing Jane Hawking to agree to a movie adaptation. “It was a lot of conversation, many glasses of sherry, and many pots of tea,” she said of the process.
Jones admitted she and Redmayne were nervous ahead of the movie’s Sunday night premiere, mainly because they were so invested in their real-life counterparts.
“We care about the story and we care about the people,” she said. “They let us into their lives and it was an intimate process. It feels personal for us”
Feeling personal in a different manner was Avi Lerner, in town on a business break from making movies in London. Lerner said he has forsaken moviemaking in America and didn’t care who knew it.
“I can’t make movies in America because of the unions,” he declared. “So I’m bringing all my business to London.”
On a lighter note, Lerner revealed he caught a screening of The Humbling, and very much enjoyed Al Pacino’s performance.
Guests enjoying themselves included Cinedigm Chairman/CEO Chris McGurk, Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles, Wild director Jean-Marc Vallee and executive producer Nathan Ross, Radar Pictures chairman Ted Field, Agent 47 producer Adrian Askarieh, screenwriter Stuart Hazeldine, Management 360’s Darin Friedman, and P. John Burke of Akin Gump.
The reception’s sponsors included American Airlines, fashion sponsor Mr. Porter, CityNational Bank, Ontario Media Development Corporation, and Travaasa.
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