'Hacksaw Ridge' Producer's Endurance Test: 54 Movies in 10 Days

Heading to the Toronto Film Festival, David Permut says he plans to do the "impossible" by forgoing parties and eating on the run: "Every meal is popcorn."
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David Permut

Hacksaw Ridge producer David Permut could put any distribution exec to shame given the number of films he is scheduled to see in Toronto. “Fifty-four movies this year. It’s going to be impossible,” he says.

Permut, who produced his first movie back in 1982 and is known for such hits as Blind Date and Face/Off, has become a fixture at Toronto and Sundance in recent years, cramming as many screenings as possible from opening night to close. During Sundance, he saw 47 (“I had The Polka King premiering so I got sidetracked a bit with Jack Black). And last year in Toronto, he saw 48, everything from high-profile Oscar hopefuls, obscure foreign films, shorts and midnight screenings.

“The good news for me is I'm still there when everyone in Hollywood goes home and the hardcore film watchers from around the world are there,” the Oscar nominee says. “For me, it's also discovering the next generation of filmmakers, the next great filmmaker, the next great actor. It’s a pure joy.”

In fact, Permut first saw Andrew Garfield in Never Let Me Go at Toronto long before he cast him as Desmond Doss in Hacksaw. Ditto for John Carney, whose Begin Again he saw at the fest and who now will direct Permut’s Russ Meyer pic Russ & Roger Go Beyond. He typically sees five films a day and skips all the parties “because I go to parties in L.A.”

He doesn’t take notes but calls his office in L.A. between screenings and dictates his impressions. After the festival, he fields calls from distributors soliciting his thoughts on particular movies. The only downside is his diet takes a beating. “I don't dine at the nice restaurants in Toronto,” he says. “Every meal is popcorn for 10 days.”

A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.