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Allen Altman Talks about Incendies and The Oscars®
By staff
(January 21, 2010 – Toronto, Ontario) The countdown to the Oscars® moves into high gear starting today, the same day Incendies opens in Toronto and Vancouver while it continues playing in Québec. Over the next three days various panels in the United States will screen the few films still vying for a 2011 Academy Award®. Early next Tuesday morning in Los Angeles the final nominees will be announced. In past years Canada has done well at the Oscars®. But in the last few years, despite promising showings at The Golden Globes, we’ve come up dry. This year… who knows. The feeling is Paul Giamatti, who just won a Golden Globe might have a shot at an Oscar® for his work in Barney`s Version. Or maybe Dustin Hoffman for the same film. And then there`s the most celebrated film in Canada this year, Incendies. As of today it is one of nine films on the list being considered for Best Foreign Language Film. Will it still be there on Tuesday? Northernstars’ Founder and Publisher Ralph Lucas spoke with one of the costars of the hit film, Allen Altman, and the first question we asked was the obvious one:

Northernstars: What`s it feel like?

Allen Altman: I feel so blessed and I’m so proud. From the first moment that I read the script I thought it was so incredible and I worked hard to get the part and I’m so thrilled it`s getting the recognition my instinct said it would. And I’m having a great, great time these days. It`s been a pretty amazing ride, with this film and the whole year. I had two films at TIFF this year and both of them were voted Canada Top 10, so it`s been amazing.

NS: How did the script come to you?

AA: The casting agent, Lucie Robitaille had cast me when I was much younger, and she remembered me, she had cast me over the years, and they were having a lot of trouble casting this role because there`s a lot of dialogue and they wanted someone who would almost charm the audience, if you will, because the movie is very heavy up until that point so she;Allen Altman; called me and said that she wanted me to take a look at this script. And I read it and…. wow. At the time I knew who Denys Villeneuve was because my friend, Marie-Josée Croze had done a film with him and I thought the film was so powerful and I had seen the play…

NS: That was going to be one of my questions.

AA: I had seen the play years before when I was living in Montreal and I was just thrilled to have the opportunity to audition. I thought it would be a fun exercise for me. I got a dialogue coach and I started working on the accent right away.

NS: What`s it like to work with Denys Villeneuve?

AA: It was a delight working with him. He had a clear vision of what he wanted. You can tell that all of his hard work happens in the casting process. I had two call-backs for that role At the last call-back they worked me to the bone. We went into the street and the camera was following us the whole time and he kept throwing directions at me. He wanted to see how hard he could push me and I think that`s where he does his selection process. Then when you’re on set he just completely trusts you. Once in awhile he’ll come over and will very gently suggest something, saying maybe “What if this was the situation?” And you know right away what he wants. It was marvelous. And working with people like Rémy Girard… I remember at the end of a very challenging scene they gave me a standing ovation…. I was overwhelmed. It was a gift.

NS: The final list of nominated films will be announced next week, on the 25th…

AA: I think it would be amazing. There hasn’t been a Canadian film that has been voted into the Oscars® since Les invasions barbares in 2004. That`s a long time. Lots of good films have come out of Canada but we just seem to get lost in the American shuffle, if you will. I’m just thrilled. It`s such a risky film, you know. It`s such a topical, intense subject matter. I’m so happy that a film like this is getting the attention it deserves because it shows that there`s so much more to Canada, if you know what I mean.

NS: And I think that`s reflected in the accolades it has already received across Canada.

AA: It was so ambitious and so well done and so elegant. The entire time I was on set I felt I was part of something special. Everybody who was on that project knew that it was an act of love doing it.

NS: If Incendies ends up in the final list of nominated films, will you be going to Los Angeles?

AA: I hope so. I’m one of only a very small list of credited actors, so I imagine there`s a chance, but it all depends on budget constraints, but I will be there with them in spirit.

NS: What`s it like to work with Rémy Girard?

AA: He`s incredibly versatile and probably one of the nicest people you could ever meet. There`s a funny story about Mélissa Désormeaux, who plays the sister. The first day I walked on set she came running up to me and I didn’t know she was the lead actress at that point, and she said, “Do you remember me? We worked together in Les héritiers Duval.” I was a regular on that show, she was a little girl, I think she was eight years old, and I was twenty-something and I said that I remembered her. And then we get to the first scene and I realize she`s the lead actress (laughs) I thought that was fantastic because it just reflected the simplicity and the humility of these wonderful actors. Everybody was there to do a job, to pay respect to the words and I think it`s reflected in the script. This was not an act of vanity or anything like that. It was really like a theatrical foray into creating a film as an act of love.

NS: What`s next for you?

AA: I’m off to Vancouver for some meetings and… we’ll see what happens. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

NS: Thanks for talking to Northernstars.

AA: Thank you.