By BRUCE KIRKLAND -- Toronto Sun
Femme fatale Kim Basinger was late arriving and didn't show so novelist James Ellroy stole the spotlight yesterday as the brains behind the funny film noir sensation L.A. Confidential at a film fest press conference.
But it wasn't that hard to do for Ellroy, despite being flanked by the star power of Danny DeVito, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce and director Curtis Hanson. Ellroy, the Los Angeles author of a series of sizzling and often sardonic crime novels, is a natural born killer -- with words.
"It's my book. It started with me. It couldn't come from anyone else," Ellroy exulted. His L.A. Confidential book, Ellroy says, is "an established literary masterpiece and, if you don't believe that, ask my wife, my dog ..."
To peals of laughter that left some of his words obscured and jumbled, Ellroy said: "This is a book that will leave you reamed, steamed, dry-cleaned, tie-died, sewn, sized, blued ... and fondued."
The irrepressible Ellroy, however, also generously paid tribute to Hanson's prowess in producing a film that managed to leave him "startled" because it reinvented his novel with actors who were so good he now finds it difficult to separate their performances from his original creations.
The actors, meanwhile, played it low-key, with occasional bursts of sarcasm. The New Zealand-born Australian star Crowe, for example, cited L.A. Confidential as a genuine career highlight: "Frankly, this is a really cool thing making an American film I can tell my friends to go and see."
Crowe and Pearce (from Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert) and Spacey (Oscar winner for The Usual Suspects) also teamed up to provide the press conference with some sly humor. They all play cops in the movie, a tale of perverted justice, greed, twisted heroism and double crossing in L.A. of the 1950s. Each was asked to describe what his life might have been like if he had become a policeman instead of an actor.
"I would have been a completely corrupt cop," mused Pearce. "I would have been an angel," Spacey said to chuckles from journalists who celebrate Spacey's Usual Suspects role as a bald-faced liar of epic proportions. "I would have been in prison," the engaging Crowe deadpanned.
For DeVito's turn, he was calm and cool compared to his outrageous, and amusing, behavior at the L.A. Confidential press conference in Cannes when the film made its world premiere.
Asked here if acting in such a highly acclaimed film made him jealous he didn't direct or produce it himself, DeVito grinned and said: "Absolutely. Every film that's been really well done and well received and is going to do well at the box office I wish I produced. Sometimes I feel I did produce all of the great films."
More laughs. The sly guys of L.A. Confidential (which opens here Sept. 19) took Toronto by storm. By nightfall, however, Basinger, who plays the movie's glamorpuss, was back in focus for the actual Toronto premiere. Sex appeal, you know.