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|September 17, 2001||
'Denzel is least like a Hollywood star!'
Arthur J Pais in Toronto
If you see filmstars at a junket or a press conference with a frown or a vacant look, you know at once that the stars are pushed into doing press. They won't hide the fact that they are just waiting for the conference to be over.
But many stars like Denzel Washington, Robin Williams, Steve Martin, and Billy Crystal enjoy the interviews and press conferences.
No surprise, then, that Washington and Martin were big hits at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) that concluded Saturday.
Theirs were perhaps the only two Standing Room Only events, with over 100 journalists attending each conference.
Martin, who has had huge success as a film actor, with films like Roxanne, Father Of The Bride, and Parenthood, has won two Emmys for his television writing and two Grammys for comedy albums.
In addition to his bestselling collection of comic pieces, Pure Drivel, he has also written a play, Picasso At The Lapin Agile, and a novel, Shopgirl, that received excellent reviews recently.
Martin, who has also done press to promote his plays and novel, not only let the TIFF press conference go beyond 10 minutes of its allotted 30 minutes but turned into a comedy show, even if it meant hogging the limelight from costar Helena Bonham Carter, who looked rather bored for most part. Though she couldn't help but laugh at Martin's jokes, many of them aimed at himself.
Though his film, Novocaine, which had its world premiere at TIFF, was receiving mixed buzz and was greeted with mild applause, Martin didn't show his disappointment when he met with journalists.
"I don't like to work with unpleasant people," he said, in one of his early responses to a question. "That's why I never want to work with myself."
Martin plays a mild-mannered dentist in Novocaine whose life is severely tested when he falls in love with his drug-addicted patient (Bonham Carter). He is soon trapped in a web of lies and conspiracies to protect her.
As he posed for photographers, he also called Bonham Carter to pose with him.
"Now to the left. And to the right. And down," he said, hiding his face in his chest for several minutes but he straightened up in no time, laughing loudly.
Martin, who has gained critical acclaim as a playwright and novelist, was asked by a reporter what are the new areas he would like to pursue.
"Let's see," he said, pretending to be serious and burst out: "Uma Thurman!" Of course, he wouldn't elaborate on that.
How did he get to choose his role in Novocaine? "I actually wanted to play Helena's part."
Martin did not mind personal questions. Up to a point. "Somehow, there's a gay rumour I've been trying to disprove that for years," he said
But he froze when a writer brought up his relationship with actress Anne Heche who was one of Hollywood's most known lesbians till she went back to heterosexuality recently.
"The whole thing with me and her happened eight years ago," he said as if he was in pain, adding, "it was like a dim memory."
Is it true she was hearing voices at the time, as she told Barbara Walters recently?
"No, I didn't have any experience with that at all, sorry," he said with a deadpan face.
Washington, whose film Training Day, a dark, psychological thriller that received positive buzz at the festival, wondered how the gritty, intricate film will play at the box-office.
At one point during the press conference, an Italian journalist cornered Washington asking him if he liked films from her country.
He said, yes, indeed. "Who is your favourite Italian director?" she asked. Washington seemed uncomfortable, finally saying he liked Fellini's films.
As the Italian persisted with more questions -- despite many more hands up for questions and glares from other journalists, Washington remained cool for several minutes and then good-naturedly looked at others, ready for their questions.
Washington, one of the highest paid Hollywood stars and gets about $20 million per film, reportedly acted in Training Day for a fraction of his fee.
"This man really gets $20 million?" a Korean journalist wanted to know. "He is least like a Hollywood star."
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