Friday, September 3, 2010

TIFF Preview - an Interview with Actress Emily Hampshire (Good Neighbours)

TIFF Preview
Good Neighbours star Emily Hampshire in town for TIFF

An interview with actor Emily Hampshire, star of Good Neighbours, a film that will be having its World Premiere in a Special Presentation and also stars Scott Speedman and Jay Baruchel. With material from a media release.

Montreal-born actress Emily Hampshire is excited to return to Toronto in celebration of her latest film screening at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Hampshire plays the leading role in director Jacob Tierney’s film Good Neighbours, a comic-noir thriller starring Scott Speedman and Jay Baruchel. The film will have its World Premiere as a Special Presentation at TIFF.

Hampshire recently starred opposite Baruchel in Tierney’s indie-comedy The Trotsky, which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2009, and showed in theatres across the county in May 2010

Jacob Tierney also writes and directs in Good Neighbours, set in Montreal during the second referendum of 1995. The action mainly takes place in an apartment building in Montreal's rundown Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood. The film follows three unusual tenants, including Louise (Hampshire,) a waitress who works in a Chinese restaurant and has a rather unhealthy attachment to her cats. Her only friend Spencer (Speedman) is a caustic widower who’s confined to a wheelchair. Meanwhile, new tenant Victor (Baruchel) is an overly friendly elementary school teacher who takes an interest in Louise, upsetting the routine that Louise and Spencer have developed – just as a string of unsolved homicides take place in the area.

The story was inspired by the novel Chère Voisine by Québec author Chrystine Brouillet, and focuses on the three characters who, in their own way, have what you might call anti-social tendencies. "It's Hickcockian noir," describes Emily Hampshire, "in the vein of Shallow Grave." Her enthusiasm for the project is obvious. "Jacob's a good friend of mine, and we've worked together on everything. The lead character is basically my dream role. I don't think I'll ever get a role that's so completely what I want to play," she says. "She just has this social thing where she doesn't really care how people see her. She knows how to get exactly what she wants without having to be a bitch - and without having to play by a man's rules. I love this character so much." She laughs. "It's hard to articulate what's so great about someone who basically wants to be left alone with her cats."

While the novel was set sometime in the 1990's, it's the film that adds the dimension of the 1995 Referendum. "It was totally Jacob's idea. When you see those OUI and NON signs, it's kind've metaphoric," Emily says. "It's visually very affecting. I'd never go see a movie on "The Referendum" - and I don't think he would either," she laughs. "It's not a referendum movie, but what you realize is, it's a backdrop. It speaks to the subject matter in a way I'd call genius."

She acknowledges that the reference speaks to her on a personal level, having grown up in Montreal during that very period; (Jacob still makes Montreal his home base). "I was taken back to grade six. We'd be ten year olds, arguing about politics! It informs your way of thinking." Certainly, I think that using Referendum signage for its aethetic and thematic qualities is probably a first in English Canadian film. "That's what I have taken away from this - to see Canadian history put into a more digestible form, if I can say that."

It'll be the first feature she'll see in its final form in front of an audience, having only seen a first cut so far. Nonetheless, she was captivated by the results. "When I saw it, I was really excited."

A Gemini Award-winner for her performance in the series Made in Canada, Hampshire’s work has also been recognized by the Canadian Academy of Film and Television with three Genie Nominations (Best Supporting Actress at the 27th Genie Awards for the movie Snow Cake; Best Leading Actress at the 25th Genie Awards for the movie Blood; and Best Supporting Actress at the 24th Genie Awards for the movie A Problem with Fear). She is most widely known to international audiences for her critically acclaimed role in Snow Cake, opposite Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver.

Photo Credits from the Top:
- by Ives Provencher
- by Atila Dory, from the film Good Neighbours
- by Atila Dory, from the film Good Neighbours
- Publicity headshot

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