Ryan Gosling tried to embrace his fans at the Princess of Wales Theatre, but there were simply too many of them.
Throngs of cheering people pushed toward the red carpet where the movie star stood to greet them with autographs after arriving fashionably late to the premiere of “The Place Beyond the Pines.” As he approached them, it became painfully clear the Toronto International Film Festival’s staff and security were no match for the crowd pushing in to catch a glimpse of Gosling.
Even as Gosling retreated for a photo shoot outside the theater with co-star Bradley Cooper and the film’s director, Derek Cianfrance, the crowd began to chant his name. And it’s no surprise either, since Gosling hails from London, Ontario, a two-hour drive from Toronto.
Perhaps that’s why Cianfrance’s latest film drew such a crowd. Many among the masses waiting to see his film knew little about its plot and even less about the city that serves as a backdrop for its narrative.
Cianfrance wanted somewhere real to shoot his latest film, a place where he could capture an honest image of an American city. And for roughly two months, he turned his cameras on Schenectady and used the city’s people to make his production as authentic as possible.
Gosling stars as a professional motorcycle stunt rider who turns to a life of crime to support a newborn child. He is doggedly pursued by Avery Cross, a rookie cop portrayed by Cooper, spurring a generational feud that extends from his career in law enforcement through his election as state attorney general.
Read what critics had to say about the film. Click HERE.
An early review posted on the blog The Playlist praised the film as “an ambitious epic that is cut from some of the same thematic tissue as Cianfrance’s previous film, but expands the scope into a wondrously widescreen tale of fathers, sons and the legacy of sins that are passed down through the generations.”
Reviewer Kevin Jagernauth also gives a thumbs up to Schenectady for its performance.
“Capturing the feel of small town Schenectady, while also opening up and providing breathtaking, beautiful vistas of New York state countryside, it visually helps ‘Pines’ establish itself as a film of big ideas and vision.”
Cianfrance’s name and the all-star cast he assembled were enough to draw droves of fans to the film’s premiere Friday. Some started lining up outside the theater in the early afternoon in order to get a front-and-center view of the red carpet before the early-evening showing.
Schenectady goes HollywoodTo view Gazette photo galleries from the filming of "The Place Beyond The Pines" in and around Schenectady in the summer of 2011, click HERE.
Among them was Rose, a Toronto native who declined to give her last name. She spent more than five hours waiting in the heat and humidity for a chance to see the cast.
The wait paid off for the married mother of three in her late 40s: She got to see Gosling, Cianfrance, co-star Eva Mendes and her favorite actor, Cooper. The affable star graciously accepted a marker from Rose and, to her delight, signed the top of one of her breasts. Then for an encore, he posed for a picture and kissed her on the cheek.
“He was great,” she said, her smile beaming even after the crowd had dispersed. “He just grabbed my phone and took a picture with me.”
She immediately sent the picture to her husband and told him about the experience. His response, she said, was predictably male.
“He said we should take a picture of it, sell it on eBay and go to Vegas,” she said.
Despite there being no trailer for the film and little publicity about the plot, “Pines” drew a formidable crowd for its debut. Tickets for both public screenings sold out quickly, and fans lined up outside the theater for more than three hours in hopes of getting one of the festival’s so-called rush passes — given out if there are seats remaining after all ticket holders are seated.
Mina Moreina of Toronto flashed a broad smile when she was among about two dozen fans allowed rush seats at the premiere of “Pines,” a film considered a hot commodity among distributors attending the festival. Despite her elation, she still couldn’t place exactly where Schenectady was on a map or the significance it played in the film.
Ronnie Cooke, also of Toronto, wasn’t as lucky. He didn’t mind, however, since he admitted knowing very little about Cianfrance’s film other than the name of the director and the big-name celebrities slated to appear in it.
Cooke, a self-proclaimed movie aficionado who frequents the festival annually, estimated the film drew a modest crowd for a medium-sized theater — the Princess of Wales can accommodate more than 1,600 people. Even though tickets for the second showing of the film were selling for more than $100 on Craigslist.com, he downplayed the fervor.
“Had there been a trailer, there would have been a lot more excitement,” he said.
Simply put, there’s much to see in Toronto over the next two weeks. Cooke’s friend, Guillaume Gagner, summed up the festival succinctly.
“For film buffs, it’s like Christmas,” he said.