September 14, 2013 7:01 pm
Updated: September 14, 2013 9:49 pm

Aniston steals the spotlight on final night of TIFF

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Above: Jennifer Aniston discusses her role in “Life of Crime” from the TIFF red carpet.

TORONTO – Life of Crime — based on an Elmore Leonard novel — closed the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday, and the movie’s director says he’s “proud and touched” the late author knew that the project had landed the prominent slot.

“He didn’t get a chance to see the film, which crushed me,” Daniel Schechter told an afternoon news conference.

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“He heard we got closing night of TIFF and he wanted to watch it and I said: ‘Just give me three more weeks.’ I wanted to do the music, the sound, the colour, and like a cruel joke he had a stroke and passed away two weeks later and I never got to show him the film.”

Read more: Full TIFF coverage

Adapted from Leonard’s The Switch, Life of Crime stars Oscar nominee John Hawkes and Yasiin Bey (better known as hip-hopper Mos Def) as newly sprung prisoners who join forces to kidnap the wife (Jennifer Aniston) of a Detroit property developer (Tim Robbins).

Aniston — the centre of attention at Saturday’s press event — gushed that Life of Crime was “wonderfully, beautifully different” than the roles she usually plays.

“It was really about getting just very small and almost numb,” said the Friends actress. “It was quite lovely, and honestly I had Dan, who is such an incredible, specific director … I just felt so completely safe … It was just such a harmonious collaboration.”

Even while answering questions about Life of Crime, however, Aniston couldn’t avoid veiled queries about her much-discussed personal life. She took on a scolding tone when a reporter asked if she and Robbins drew on their own lives to play a warring couple in the film.

“Private question,” she said.

“Would you like to take that one Jennifer?” Robbins asked slyly.

“Do I have to?” she responded.

“I’ll just say you try to get in touch with your inner, miserable relationship,” said Robbins.

“And we’ve all had that,” added Aniston. “It’s just a nice little well to dip into.”

While not as high-profile as the opening night film, being selected as the festival closer guarantees extra attention.

There is also heightened interest in Life of Crime because of the August death of Leonard. Schechter says making the film was “nerve-wracking” because the crime novelist didn’t like a lot of cinematic adaptations of his books.

“He’s notorious (for) being brutal about the (adaptations) he doesn’t like,” he said. “And he also had a lot of love for the ones that went well.”

He added: “I think he knew I was taking it pretty seriously.”

The 1970s-set Life of Crime features some of the same characters that were in Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 film Jackie Brown, which was based on Leonard’s Rum Punch.

The characters played by Hawkes and Bey in Life of Crime were played by Robert De Niro and Samuel L. Jackson in the Tarantino film. Life of Crime is set 15 years earlier.

“Mos Def and John Hawkes made a very conscious decision not to want to look at Jackie Brown,” said Schechter, who also wrote the Life of Crime screenplay.

“But I’d be lying if I said when I picked up the book that wasn’t a very exciting aspect to it. I’m a massive Jackie Brown fan, a massive Quentin Tarantino fan.”

As for landing the closing night gala at TIFF, Schechter says it was a good hint to Leonard that “we didn’t totally screw up this adaptation.”

He added: “At least it was nice that he knew to some extent (that the film) was getting some love. We’re all very well aware that it’s a hugely prestigious honour to be the closing night film or to be in TIFF at all.”

The Toronto International Film Festival wraps Sunday.

© 2013 The Canadian Press

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