Last night my Toronto International Film Festival experience kicked off with something a little out of the norm for me – attending an actual TIFF event. Though the fest is a huge happening in T.O., the last few years I’ve tended to shy away from it. Crowds and line-ups just aren’t my things anymore. However, it turns out I couldn’t ignore a few unique events – next week’s premiere of Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem, and the first ever Toronto showcase of director Jason Reitman’s live table reads of classic film scripts, which took place last night.
The idea behind Reitman’s reads, which have been done in Los Angeles and New York, is simple – a group of actors gather for the first time to read through a script. Reitman handles scene changes and descriptions, the actors do the rest. In the case of the TIFF event from last night at Ryerson Theatre, Reitman chose a film that had debut at the film festival some thirteen years earlier – American Beauty.
Find out how the reading turned out after the jump.
Part of the appeal of the event was seeing well know actors read parts they didn’t play then, but could have been cast in now. In the case of American Beauty, Bryan Cranston stepped into the role of Lester Burnham, first played by Kevin Spacey. Christina Hendricks played his wife Carolyn, originally essayed by Annette. Girls star Adam Driver played Ricky Fitts, while Scott Pilgrim’s Mae Whitman played Jane.
In the hands of director Sam Mendes, American Beauty was visually stunning as well as superbly acted. Who can forget the rose petals or the flying plastic bag or the gorgeous clouds? But by taking away the visuals, the real brilliance of Reitman’s reading was being able to simply focus on the words screenwriter Alan Ball had crafted. And powerful words they are, as all the characters in American Beauty try to make sense of life and who they’re supposed to be. Believe me, as you get older, it’s hard not to see pieces of oneself in Lester and Carolyn.
As the reading came to its inevitable conclusion, I found myself getting more than a little choked up, especially when Cranston’s Lester is asked by Angela, played by Sarah Gadon “how are you?”
“God, it’s been a long time since anybody asked me that,” answers Lester. “I’m great.”
So was watching a classic film script come to life in a wholly unique way. It was great.