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Flirting With Disaster

Director Don McKellar Begins With the End

Different as Last Night and Twitch City are, the picture gets more confusing when you factor in McKellar's credit as cowriter on the classical-music sagas The Red Violin and 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould. He says the diversity of his résumé can be awkward ("it's difficult to find people who like them all") yet oddly comforting ("it means I'm not forcing some arbitrary sensibility on different projects"). McKellar is also keen to downplay his triple-threat status. "The distinctions have always been less clear for me than for most people. A good writer is a good actor, at least mentally; a good director understands writing and acting."

Of the seemingly incestuous Canadian film community, McKellar says, "I'm sure some people think of it as a clique, but it's very supportive. We grew up knowing we would benefit by other people's fortune." His association with Cronenberg dates back to 1992, when the veteran director graciously agreed to play a porn addict in McKellar's short film Blue ("I wrote him a letter promising no prosthetics, no jokes about The Fly"). Roles in Egoyan's The Adjuster and Exotica fostered another close relationship. "Atom actually said in interviews that he thought of me as a surrogate Atom, which is quite bizarre. We used to get mistaken for each other a lot. He tells this story of how he was at a screening where my mother came running up to him. My mother denies it." Still, the two seem to be willfully perpetuating the confusion: In a short on which they recently collaborated, McKellar plays Egoyan-"not in a Being Atom Egoyan kind of way. I played Atom, and he played an interviewer. He was asking questions and I never responded."

"There’s real intelligence behind the decision not to participate in the world."
photo: Robin Holland
"There’s real intelligence behind the decision not to participate in the world."

McKellar says he's eager to move on to another directing project, having spent more than a year promoting Last Night (the film was released in Canada last fall, but Lions Gate decided to time its U.S. release for maximum millennial frisson). For a couple more months, though, he'll have to continue deflecting the obvious question that his filmhas raised about its director's own plans for New Year's Eve. "I always lie," he says, "normally in some way that flatters the questioner. At Cannes last year, I was telling journalists that I'd visit their country. You can probably guess from the film that New Year's Eve celebrations aren't my favorite occasion. Normally I try and hide in my room, but I'll feel guilty and end up at some party. I honestly don't know yet. My film is about keeping open possibilities. It encourages people not to be decisive."

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