• By: Keith Whittier

Behind the Red Carpet at TIFF

Photo credit: TIFF/Jeremy Chan

One of the wonderful aspects of being accredited at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is the access to red carpet events. The stars get dropped off, take some pictures, sign autographs for adoring fans, and then their publicists usher them through a press line where wonderful people like me are waiting to speak with them. This year I wasn’t planning on doing any of these events but then I received an email informing me that Eddie Murphy would be available to promote his new film. Eddie Murphy? Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Places, Raw, Delerious, 48 hours…..that Eddie Murphy?? Well….my original plan went through the window.

I ran back to the place where we were staying, kicked off the casual wear I was in and got myself…red carpet ready. Usually when I am at one of these events I don’t always get the main stars…not this time.

The following is the red carpet conversations I had with the cast and crew of the upcoming Netflix Film, ‘Dolemite Is My Name’. I spoke with Producer John Davis, Director Craig Brewer, co-stars Michael Keegan-Key and Wesley Snipes, and THE star, Eddie Murphy.

Ottawa Life Magazine: This is one of the most talked abut films of the Festival and of course we have the return of Eddie Murphy. How are you feeling tonight?

John Davis (JD): We worked really hard to make this movie come to life and thank God for Netflix. (the distributor) It’s getting hard to make movies that aren’t tentpole, Marvel, mass audience movies. This is a really interesting and important character in the history of comedy and to me Eddie Murphy is a really interesting and important character in the history of comedy so to put the two together was great.

I have found over the last few years there may have been a few movies that screened at the Festival that went direct to Netflix but this year it seems to be significantly more. Do you think that’s a commentary on where things are heading with theatrical releases versus a streaming service like Netflix?

JD: I make movies for all of the studios and there are certain types of movies you need to make for the studios. To have the freedom to make a movie like this, Netflix is great. I think Netflix is keeping cinema alive.

Congratulations on the film. After seeing the trailer for the film, I was laughing my head off. Is my body going to be able to handle the whole movie?

Craig Brewer(CB): I think you’re going to be really surprised. First of all it accomplishes the thing that we all want; the moment where we get Eddie back! The ‘Eddie’ we have all been waiting to see. There is something about the way this man swears in this movie. I think the thing that is going to surprise a lot of people is that it is a very inspirational movie. There is a lot of soul, a lot of heart and I think the other thing you are going to see is that Eddie pulls in a fantastic performance , not just for the laughs but a true award winning performance.

What was it that attracted you to this project?

CB: I got my career started in the South just trying to make movies by hook or crook like ‘Rudy Ray Moore’ (Murphy’s character in the film) and I always felt a connection with struggling filmmakers. He has never gotten his recognition as a pioneer of independent cinema. My only hope is that people get to know him as the hero we think he is

Obviously TIFF is a huge platform as we lead into the Oscars. There is a lot of buzz around Eddie being nominated, how do you feel about that?

CB: I most definitely think he should be nominated. The one thing I think that people need to realize is that, yes doing a dramatic role is hard work for an actor but every dramatic actor will tell you comedy is hard. It is something that you can put a little too much in and go overboard, but Eddie is in this pocket, that is where his artistry lies where he can occupy a truth that people can’t put their finger  on, it’s unique to him. And I think it’s time he gets the recognition he deserves.

Gentlemen, congratulations on the film. Michael., obviously your star continues to rise, as you are doing fantastic work. Tell me about the opportunity of being part of such a wonderful ensemble.

Michael Keegan-Key: In regards to Eddie it feels like ‘Cosmic Justice’ in some way. It’s not that anyone wasn’t casting him in movies I just think he was taking a bit of a hiatus for himself and wanted to do different things. And for me I would  be remised I didn’t say there is a sense of arrival. You feel in a way that if you get a chance to work with your heroes you have gone to another plateau. You have to respect that and have gratitude and that’s where I am right now.         

Wesley, in Passenger 57 your character taught us to ‘always bet on black’. What are we going to learn in this film?
Wesley Snipes: Never give up on your dreams. Keep going, no matter what. Dreams do come true. And ‘D’urville Martin’ (his character in the film) is the greatest director that ever lived and you can quote me on that.

First It is so amazing having you back! I’ll ask you the same thing I asked your director. I have seen the trailer for this film a thousand times and each time I’m laughing my head off. Am I going to be able to get through the movie?

Eddie Murphy: You’ll survive it cuz it’s funny but it’s a really really good story too.

What attracted you to this project?

EM: The story is incredible. He was a comedian but he was also an independent filmmaker and made his movies and records out of his own pocket and believed in himself. It’s a great story about believing in yourself and seeing your dreams through. And that you don’t have to be Richard Pryor, its about believing in yourself.

Everyone I have spoken to tonight talks about the opportunity to work with you and what an honour it was. How does that feel knowing so many people wanted to be attached to this film because of you?

EM: It’s a great feeling but even if I wasn’t involved it’s a great story.