The version of "Where The Truth Lies," Atom Egoyan's new film, screening here at the Toronto International Film Festival is the "Cannes cut" or the version seen before Egoyan attempted to appease the Motion Picture Association of America by re-editing the picture. Egoyan, en route to Toronto for the North American debut of his new film, lost his appeal to the MPAA in Los Angeles Thursday, with an NC-17 rating upheld by the organization according to distributor ThinkFilm. For the U.S. release, the company is inclined to release the film unrated and revert to Egoyan's original version.
"We chose to play the game," explained ThinkFilm's Mark Urman of his decision to pursue a rating that would give them access to a wider number of movie theaters in the U.S. "It somehow proves again and again, it's a game," he said, adding, "[The decision] makes the film magnetic, and the film is sexy, we are not ashamed of it."
The trouble for the film is a three-way sex scene involving stars Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth, and Rachel Blanchard. The film is described as "the story of what happens during a ménage a trios that leads to a girl's death." In the film, Bacon and Firth portray a popular pair of entertainers who, after a night of antics, end up with a dead woman on their hands.
Egoyan, who argued at the appeal hearing along with Rachel Blanchard, actually won a majority of support at the session, earning 6 of 10 votes in a move to overturn the NC-17, but a 2/3 majority is required, leaving him one vote short.
After screening next week here at the Toronto fest, ThinkFilm will open the movie on October 14th. Blanchard told indieWIRE Wednesday that she worried that due to the restrictive rating, the audience of viewers would be smaller and clips of the film would be more likely to end up on the Internet, accessible to younger kids out of the context of the movie. Admitting that the film is not for young viewers she said that for mature teens, "there is an important dialogue that people can have... about celebrity and the abuse of power."
The film's producer Robert Lantos is the head of distributor ThinkFilm and said in a statement, "I trust that (the) moviegoing audience will see the film for the provocative intelligent entertainment that it was intended to be, and not as titillating fare."
While he had contractually committed to delivering an 'R' rated film, Egoyan told indieWIRE that determining what exactly an 'R' movie is can be difficult and added that he was not being held to the agreement. "Directors have to be very, very cautious when they sign that bit of a contract," advised Egoyan, "I don't know how you assess between 'R' and 'NC17'. It's a judgment call made by a group that you cannot predict." He added, "For the film to have been altered anymore than the version we saw this morning, if I was forced to alter it by cutting this scene I would have been horrified... that might have been the case if Robert Lantos were not supporting what I was doing."
Egoyan told indieWIRE that he found the ratings and appeal process intriguing and surprising. "I don't think anyone knows how tight or strict those guidelines are," Egoyan asserted, explaining the he went into the appeal process naively. What was eye opening, he indicated, was the configuration of the group. While there were ten people considering the appeal, two additional people whom he described as clergy (one Catholic and the other Episcopalian) were also on hand and were part of the closed-door deliberation process, he said.
The film has avoided ratings problems in other countries and will have a theatrical run in Egoyan's native Canada without problem. Egoyan added, "It will be great to come back to Canada and not to have to worry about it."