Catching up with Paul Haggis at TIFF 0
Director Paul Haggis poses for a photo with reporter Marie-Joelle Parent in Toronto, Sept. 7, 2012. Haggis is in town to raise money for the charity Artists for Peace and Justice during the Toronto International Film Festival. APJ was launched four years ago during TIFF and helps children in the slums of Haiti. (Marie-Joelle Parent/QMI Agency)
In the middle of TIFF madness, I caught up yesterday with Paul Haggis. The Canadian director was in town only for a day to raise money for his charity, Artists for Peace and Justice.
Haggis, 59, had just flown in from Rome where he's about to start shooting his next movie titled Third Person. He won't have time to catch any movies this year. His best TIFF memory I asked right off the bat? "Crash! When it came here as a small independant film, that was a pretty good moment," he answered with a big smile.
It was an easy guess; he won an Oscar for it six years ago. He also wrote Million Dollar Baby, which won the Oscar the year before.
Haggis has been working on this new film for the last two years. It will be about three different love stories in three different cities: New York, Paris and Rome. The movie, he said, is based in part on his life as a recent divorcee. Mila Kunis, James Franco, Casey Affleck, Olivia Wilde and Liam Neeson are part of the cast.
"It's a terrific cast," said Haggis, whom I met at the It Lounge on Adelaide St. "Ninety percent of the movie will be shot in Italy. We are faking Paris and New York."
His last movie, The Next Three Days, came out two years ago. Is he anticipating the big return on set?
"I can't wait". Nerveracking? "Sure, it's a lot of pressure, but a lot of fun. Let's just say it's not as bad as writing, that's two and a half years sitting alone and realizing you have to do it again".
I actually met Haggis randomly last January in a New York coffee shop near his apartment. He was crafting his scenario for the second time. "Each time it's different, but I like to hear life around me, I like to hide away in public," he told me about writing his scripts in public spaces.
But that's not what he's here to talk about. He wants to bring the spotlight back on Haiti, a country he has taken to heart since a meeting about five years ago with Rick Frechette, a doctor and priest who devotes his life to the children in the shanty towns. Haggis has been to the country several times since the devastating earthquake in 2010.
Haggis threw a cocktail bash Thursday night at La Société. He is also hosting another event, a luncheon, with co-host Jude Law and Trudie Styler at University of Toronto's President Estate. K'Naan, a few members of Arcade Fire, Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace are set to perform.
"TIFF is one of our major fundraiser venues with Cannes and the Oscars, but here it's special, it's where we started," he said. "I think if we do half a million dollars we'll be happy."
In Cannes a few months ago they raised, with the help of Sean Penn, $2 million in one night.
Through his organization, he has helped raise millions of dollars for Haiti. A new medical centre is set to open and an art school with a music, film, design and audio engineering division. George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Sean Penn, Ben Stiller, Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie all support the school. Some of them even teach.
"Arcade Fire has been really involved with the record studio," says Harris. "We made a commitment to the children of Haiti four years ago and we have to keep the heat on, the news cycles and people's memories being so short. Including mine."