Canadian director Atom Egoyan, actors talk ‘Seven Veils,’ U.S. strike at TIFF

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TORONTO — Director Atom Egoyan premièred his film “Seven Veils” Friday in a unique collaboration with the Canadian Opera Company and the Toronto International Film Festival.

A special “avant-première” took place at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, with the official TIFF screening taking place Sunday at the Princess of Wales Theatre.

“Seven Veils,” starring Amanda Seyfried, tells the story of a theatre director whose world unravels as she reworks a production of “Salome” after the death of her mentor, who was previously in charge.

The U.S. actor was not at the première, saying in a social media post that it “doesn’t feel right” to promote the film during an actors strike that has halted production in Hollywood and prevents talent from promoting their work. 

Egoyan said that the absence of his film’s lead actor from the première was “heartbreaking.” Seyfried had instead attended a private screening of “Seven Veils” in New York the night prior. 

“She really wants to be here, but she was torn,” Egoyan told The Canadian Press on TIFF’s red carpet. “She wants to support her union, and I understand that as well.”  

Egoyan says the Emmy Award-winning actor brought a lot to her role. 

“She’s so open to whatever direction you give, and she takes it and makes it her own. She’s so authentic. Everything she does seems real.” 

The film’s Canadian actors were present on the red carpet, including Aliya Kanani, who plays a stage staffer named Kathy. 

Kanani, a Toronto native and comedian, said as an actor and writer, she stood by the U.S. actors participating in SAG-AFTRA’s strike and declining to attend red carpet events, considering the close ties of the Canadian film industry to that of the United States. 

“Everything that they’re fighting for — better wages and everything in between — being that the Canadian market is so intertwined with the U.S. market, that fair and better treatment will trickle over to us, no doubt,” Kanani said on the red carpet. 

She and several other actors at the première praised Egoyan’s directing style as patient and encouraging of improvisation, which Canadian actor Mark O’Brien called “liberating.” 

“Atom is very open and the community has been very open to Atom’s (independent films),” said O’Brien, who’s known for his roles in the TV series “Republic of Doyle” and “Halt and Catch Fire.” 

“They’ve allowed him to have his voice … if your voice is contaminated or compromised … the context is lost. Atom never has his context lost because he’s strong and certain as an artist.” 

Egoyan directed “Salome” for the Canadian Opera Company in 1996. It depicts the beheading of John the Baptist at the behest of Jewish princess Salome.

Egoyan has said the work carries deeply personal themes about concealed wounds, which were a staple in several of his early works.

Source: Alaska Highway