Neve Campbell among striking actors navigating tricky waters at TIFF

TORONTO — As one of the few striking Hollywood actors promoting projects at the Toronto International Film Festival, film and TV star Neve Campbell acknowledged the "fine line to dance” as she other multi-hyphenate celebs hit the circuit to support upcoming projects.

The Canadian "Scream" and "Party of Five" star spoke at length Friday about her upcoming Canadian ballet documentary “Swan Song” – a publicity push she says is allowed under strike rules because it’s a Canadian production, she served as a producer and she does not appear on camera.

"Obviously people want to ask me about my career and want to ask me about projects and I can't answer those questions at the moment," said Campbell, a former dancer whose doc is set for theatrical release Sept. 22 in Toronto and bound for CBC as a four-part series in November.

"Believe me, it was a big conversation with my team and we checked with SAG prior to my coming, whether it was OK for me to walk the red carpet and be here supporting the film, and I'm so grateful that I can."

Celebrities have traditionally been a huge draw at the 11-day movie marathon, but several buzzy world premieres on Saturday night were not expected to have any screen stars as job action continued by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Starless red carpets set for Saturday included “Mother, Couch,” with a cast topped by Ewan McGregor and Rhys Ifans; “Lee,” led by Kate Winslet, Alexander Skarsgård, Marion Cotillard and Andy Samberg; and “Ezra,” featuring Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne and Robert De Niro. The films’ directors – Niclas Larsson, Ellen Kuras and Tony Goldwyn, respectively – were expected to walk the red carpet.

“Finestkind” writer/director Brian Helgeland said Friday he would “carry the torch” for the cast of his crime drama premiering Friday.

And he sympathized with festival-goers who may walk away disappointed they won’t be able to catch a glimpse of the film’s stars, which include Tommy Lee Jones, Jenna Ortega and Ben Foster.

“No one is ever going to want to see me more than they’re going to want to see Jenna Ortega,” said Helgeland.

Helgeland, a decades-long member of the Writers Guild of America whose scripts include 1997’s “L.A. Confidential,” and 2003’s “Mystic River,” noted the U.S. writers union is also on strike over myriad issues including the use of artificial intelligence.

Both unions are seeking new labour contracts with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the big studios and streamers.

He characterized that fight as one between “David and Goliath, but Goliath has gotten a lot bigger.”

Several famous actors who have directed TIFF films are expected on the circuit, among them Patricia Arquette who made her directorial debut with "Gonzo Girl," Viggo Mortensen who helms "The Dead Don't Hurt" and Ethan Hawke with "Wildcat."

Among the buzziest names on the carpet for Thursday's opening night film "The Boy and the Heron" was SAG-AFTRA chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, who spoke about his union's demands for improved compensation and job protections.

He's set to appear at a joint SAG rally with Canada’s performers union, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema Television Radio Artists (ACTRA), on Saturday outside the Canadian headquarters of Amazon and Apple in Toronto.

Several film buffs on the circuit said they were undeterred by the lack of star power, instead choosing to celebrate the art of cinema and industry workers at this year's festival.

Emerging from the Friday afternoon premiere of Anna Kendrick’s “Woman of the Hour,” sisters Gia and Lia Ui said they paid $177 for premium tickets that would typically include a few comments from the stars themselves.

Nevertheless, they weren’t surprised that Kendrick was not in attendance, even though she serves as director in addition to appearing on screen.

“I'm a bit bummed but I kind of expected it coming into this screening,” said Lia Ui.

“I was happy that yesterday we were able to catch ‘Gonzo Girl’ and Patricia Arquette was there and Camila Morrone. That was my first TIFF experience that I had the whole cast in the Q-and-A."

— With files from Brittany Hobson and Tyler Griffin in Toronto.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 8, 2023.

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press