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Locarno pays tribute to American actor Reilly

John C. Reilly has enjoyed his time in Locarno

Cannes would do well to take after Locarno, says American actor John C. Reilly. He liked the Swiss film festival so much that he decided to stay an extra night.

Locarno showed the European premiere of his new film Cyrus on the Piazza Grande on Saturday night and is hosting a tribute to him throughout the week.

“What I find really impressive is that you can assemble 8,000 people in the Piazza for a film,” Reilly told a news conference in the Ticino town a few hours before the screening of Cyrus. “I don’t know if Telluride or Toronto or Sundance can do that – 8,000 people watching a film together outdoors.”

Asked by whether Locarno was “glamorous” enough compared with other festivals, the actor in such films as Magnolia and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, joked: “You’re right, it’s not so glamorous.”

The actor then recounted a conversation he had had with Olivier Père, the festival’s new artistic director.

“Olivier said, ‘It’s very relaxed here and chic and glamorous in a laid-back way, and maybe that was what Cannes was like 50 years ago.’ So perhaps Cannes needs to be a little bit more like Locarno and a little bit less like – a circus!” Reilly remarked.

Nice guy

While introducing the actor to the crowd at the Piazza Grande, Père described Reilly as “a wonderful actor and a very nice guy”.

Indeed, Reilly must be a nice guy because he never bothered to correct any of the people who mispronounced his name – including Père, as well as a number of people at the news conference.

Part of the actor’s charm is his modesty paired with mock pomposity.

“I’m very honoured that Locarno chose [me] and I hope it catches on! I hope that festivals all over the world suddenly realise that they need to do tributes to me eventually.”

But in all seriousness: “It’s very humbling and a great honour and I’m very appreciative of Olivier and everyone from the festival,” Reilly said.

Improv night

To the delight of festival organisers, Reilly and his wife spontaneously opted to spend another day in Locarno.

Reilly’s improvisational skills are also showcased in Cyrus, which was written and directed by the American brothers Jay and Mark Duplass.

“They wrote a wonderful script and then encouraged us not to use it. Mark and Jay had incredible courage because in a way, they allowed the actors to be co-writers through improvisation,” Reilly said.

Jay Duplass, who accompanied Reilly to Locarno, emphasised the importance of realism in Duplass films.

“We’re very specific about the stories we’re trying to tell – we want them to feel very real and documentary-like … we’re trying to create an environment in which something really genuine and special can happen,” he said.

He and his brother wrote the screenplay specifically for Reilly, whose producer wife had recommended that they work together.

“I wish I could say it’s every day that somebody comes to me and says ‘We wrote this film for you – it’s a romantic lead’, but those are sadly rare circumstances. So I jumped at the chance,” Reilly said.

He added that it was a luxury to shoot the film in sequential order – something that he has only done once or twice before.

“Most of the time you’re going, ‘Wait, how am I going to feel at this point in the story?’ because you’re shooting the end at the beginning. The biggest challenge of the day is getting yourself to understand where the character is at.”

Money, money, money

Duplass was quite candid about the financial worries that come along with being a young filmmaker. Although he wasn’t specific in terms of figures, it seems that Cyrus – while fairly low-budget – was a step up for the Duplass duo.

“Before this experience we were two brothers in a cave making art for a few hundred dollars – now we get paid and have health insurance,” Duplass told the piazza crowd. Cyrus, which had only been released in the United States prior to Locarno, has already covered its operating costs.

Reilly commented on the contrast between American and international filmmaking, saying that you almost have to fight for the chance to make an art film in the US.

“For some reason in the US you’re looked at like you’re crazy if you’re not primarily concerned with the financial return of an artistic endeavour. Sometimes it makes me wish I was a European actor, and maybe one day I will be if I can learn some languages.”

With the dapper straw hat he donned in Locarno, he almost looks the part.

– Cyrus by Jay and Mark Duplass (2010)
– Hard Eight by Paul Thomas Anderson (1996)
– Boogie Nights by Paul Thomas Anderson (1997)
– Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story by Jake Kasdan (2007)
– Step Brothers by Adam Mckay (2008)

The Locarno film festival runs until August 14.

Other Reilly films:
– Magnolia by Paul Thomas Anderson (1999)
– The Perfect Storm by Wolfgang Petersen (2000)
– Gangs of New York by Martin Scorsese (2001)
– Chicago by Rob Marshall (2002)
– The Aviator by Martin Scorsese (2004)

With John’s (Reilly) social life at a standstill and his ex-wife about to get remarried, the down on his luck divorcee finally meets the woman of his dreams (Marisa Tomei), only to discover she has another man in her life – her 21-year-old son Cyrus (Jonah Hill).

Cyrus will go to any lengths to protect her and is definitely not ready to share her with anyone, especially John. Before long, the two are locked in a battle of wits for the woman they both love, and it appears only one man can be left standing when it’s over.

Cyrus takes a funny and sometimes heartbreaking look at love and family in contemporary Los Angeles.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR