In the three decades that Jeremy Thomas has been taking his films to Toronto, the veteran British producer has seen the festival grow from small to enormous. But whatever its size, it has always been one of his favorites, second only to Cannes in his pantheon of cinematic confabs.
“Primarily I go there to enjoy myself,” he says. “The restaurants are very, very good, and I have a lot of friends there. But it’s also a very good entry point for European films into North America. You get an exceptional response from the audiences, who are mostly regular filmgoers who have chosen what they want to see and paid for their tickets. There are posters in every cafe. It seems to take over the whole city.”
This enthusiasm can sometimes get out of hand. He has vivid memories of screening, or rather not screening, Sex Pistols movie “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle” to an audience of rioting punks. They got so into the spirit of the movie that the trembling theater manager pulled the plug when the pic had scarcely begun.
Thomas first attended the fest with “The Shout” in 1978, and has since shown everything from “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” to “Sexy Beast.” Most recent North American deal he struck at the fest was for “Besieged” with Fine Line.
He’s back this year with Terry Gilliam’s “Tideland” and the Tibetan movie “Dreaming Lhasa,” both still seeking U.S. distribution. “Tideland” was hotly pursued by Venice, but Thomas felt there was more upside to a world preem in Canada, where the movie was shot.
He will also have a full slate of movies being sold by his sales outfit HanWay Films, including the pseudo-doc “Brothers of the Head,” about conjoined twins who play in a punk band. Hopefully this time around the theater manager will keep his nerve.