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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

September 11, 2009 at 3:15 PM

Penelope Cruz and Nick Hornby, back-to-back

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TORONTO — Talk about an unlikely couple. Today I did a couple of interviews, to be squirrelled away for later publication when the movies open in Seattle, with Penelope Cruz (for “Broken Embraces,” her new Pedro Almodovar movie described in an earlier blog) and Nick Hornby (the British novelist who wrote the screenplay for the utterly enchanting coming-of-age film “An Education”). Booking interviews with “talent” usually involves a lot of back-and-forth, rearranging schedules and figuring out how long it takes to run from the movie theater to the hotel where the interviews are and back again. In this case, since both movies were being released by the same studio, the scheduling was done back-to-back, and both interviews took place at the Inter-Continental’s restaurant, a posh place with a perpetual crowd out front, looking for celebs. Somebody very famous entered right before I did — I could see a bunch of people holding up their cellphones and taking pictures — but I didn’t see who it was. Could have been anyone, I guess.
So. Two very different interviews, both satisfying. Penelope Cruz is every bit as gorgeous in person as she is on screen, and was dressed like a movie star in a low-cut lavender floral dress (very low-cut; not the sort of thing worn by mere mortals), bright pink sweater and heels. She was polite and charming, and answered my questions thoughtfully, but I sensed just a bit of weariness with the process. Being “on” as a movie star must feel like a burden sometimes — particularly if you can’t even enter and exit a hotel without causing a commotion — and maybe she’d rather be off reading a book or something. It would probably get old to sit around charmingly answering questions all day, even if you did get to wear a pretty dress and even if the journalist did her very best to make the questions interesting. I did like her description of doing comedy: “It’s very delicate, it’s like music, and if you’re two notes off it’s all wrong.”
Nick Hornby, British author of five novels, is on the other hand very much a regular bloke, and I couldn’t tell you what he was wearing or even much at all about his appearance except that he’s bald and smokes a lot. But I could have talked to him all afternoon. After bonding over issues with Wilkie Collins (I’d just read an essay Hornby wrote about him), we had a fun, relaxed chat. My favorite interviews in Toronto have been with writers (also great to talk to: Christopher Hampton, for “Atonement” two years back); not being burdened with having to be movie stars, they’re interesting and down to earth. I’ll save most of my Hornby quotes for the eventual story (“An Education” opens in Seattle in October; watch for it), but here’s his explanation of why he didn’t do the screenplays for his novels “HIgh Fidelity” and “About a Boy” : “You’ve just spent five years putting everything in, why would you want to spend five years taking it all out again?”
One last Toronto note: Sometimes it’s hard to explain how it is that TIFF seems to take over the city, but today I saw a perfect example. In a cab this morning, I passed a church whose sign outside read: “A TIFF Tribute: Hymns & Hollywood.” See, even the churches get in on the act. More tomorrow.
(Photo: Penelope Cruz does the movie-star thing at the Toronto premiere of “Broken Embraces.” AP Photo/Evan Agostini.)

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