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Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jeff Daniels on Tackling Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’

Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jeff Daniels on Tackling Ridley Scott's 'The Martian'

Chiwetel Ejiofor was on hand in Toronto in 2013 – for “Half of a Yellow Sun” and his Oscar-winning “12 Years a Slave.” Scott is here for what he said was his fourth time “and this is the biggest reaction I’ve ever had.” Jeff Daniels, who plays the head of NASA in Scott’s bring-Matt-back-from-Mars adventure, has been here so many times he’s lost count (“The Squid and the Whale,” “Fly Away Home,” “something else”).

“The reaction for me, compared to those other three movies was a sense of relief that it worked,” Daniels said. “It’s all guesswork, even with someone as great as Ridley a portion of what we’re throwing up there, we’re crossing our fingers, hoping an audience takes to it. That’s the payoff for us.”

What audiences often forget is that what the performers are putting on screen, they executed a year or more before. “And that’s kind of when you’re done with it,” Daniels said Sunday at TIFF. “To see it a year later it’s not mine, it’s theirs. But then to sit back and see them receive it and go with it or not — and in this case they did — it’s a cool thing to do.”

READ MORE: Toronto: With ‘The Martian,’ Ridley Scott Returns to Form (Review and Roundup)

Broadway, on which Daniels last starred in “God of Carnage,” he said, is a little different. “If it doesn’t work you’re still standing on stage.” He laughed. “At least with movies, you can be in the back row and, if it doesn’t work, you can slip away quietly.”

Both men are cheerleaders for Matt Damon, whose performance is the centerpiece and with whom they never really crossed trajectories. Ejiofor and Daniels shot in Houston, months before Damon started filming on what seems to be another planet.

“Matt Damon is superb, it’s a brilliant central performance, and not an easy one to do,” Ejiofor said. “I met Matt Damon years and years ago — and then the other day.” He laughed. “I said, ‘I really hope to work with you one day, mate.’”

Daniels said, “I really like him and I was glad to be in the movie, first for Ridley, but second for Matt, because he makes good movies; he doesn’t make bad movies. And what he does in the film is extraordinary, a wonderful actor’s challenge and he did it really, really well. I hope he gets nominated, because he went from A to Z.”

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