A murder mystery surrounding a 1950s lounge act took center stage at the Toronto Film Festival Tuesday, with attention focused not on the film’s noirish style, but on a controversial NC-17 rating because of a torrid sex scene, which could cramp its U.S. distribution.
Atom Egoyan’s “Where the Truth Lies” focuses on a Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis-type comedy duo that falls apart when a dead woman is found in their hotel suite after a night of partying.
The film jumps between the 1950s, when the duo were at their peak, and the 1970s, when a reporter, played by Alison Lohman, tries to unlock the mystery of the dead woman.
But what has hearts aflutter at the ratings board is a racy menage-a-trois scene involving stars Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth -- who play the fictional entertainers Lanny Morris and Vince Collins -- and Rachel Blanchard.
“It’s crazy, it’s totally outrageous, it’s very upsetting, and I can’t understand it,” the 45-year-old Egoyan said about the Motion Picture Association of America’s decision to apply the rating, which will keep under-18s from seeing it and could make it a tough sell in conservative U.S. markets.
Egoyan said the board’s complaints centered on the amounts of “thrusting” in the sex scene, but he still found resistance after he trimmed the scene down, suggesting perhaps there was more to the objections.
“I think even though from the beginning they were saying it’s not because of the homosexuality, I think it is. But they can’t say that,” he said in an interview along with co-star Bacon in a Toronto hotel suite.
Egoyan said the scene, in which the three actors appear naked, was choreographed so as not to show too much, and sits at a crucial point in the film, meaning it could not be removed without taking away from the story.
“It looks like a very rich studio movie, and you probably don’t expect in that format to go to the places this film does, because a lot of the films now that are using more sexualized content are lower budget and feel gritty,” he said.
Much like Egoyan’s earlier offerings such as “The Sweet Hereafter” and “Exotica”, the film takes a look at issues of emotional and sexual manipulation, and the gap between personal identity and public persona.
But styling the film as a murder mystery is new territory for the Canadian director, who readily acknowledges he’s hoping ”Where the Truth Lies” will have more commercial appeal than his previous movies, which have mostly received critical acclaim but middling box-office success.
A risk for BaconFor Bacon, 47, the role is the latest of many where he has taken dramatic risks, following closely on the heels as his turn as a pedophile in “The Woodsman”.
As Morris, Bacon plays a wise-cracking song-and-dance guy against Firth’s proper English gentleman. The two actors, who had never met before this movie, had to transform themselves into a believable comedy act in just weeks.
“What was really fun about the whole process was in the original script we knew that we had these two guys, we knew that one was a little bit more of a knucklehead on stage, but that the relationship flips when they’re offstage,” he said.
The character also has a darker, more manipulative side, which was an attraction for Bacon.
“As an actor, I’ve always believed we have dark sides to ourselves. I do have that Lanny side to me, where I could, in another set of circumstances, do some drugs and order up a couple hookers,” he said later at a press conference.
“Even though that’s not the life I live, at least right now, that still hasn’t totally gone away,” he said with a grin. REUTERS