David Schwimmer is probably still best known for his role in that ’90s cultural behemoth known as “Friends,” but since then of course he has taken on more acting gigs and has also found time to direct. His latest stint behind the camera is “Trust” with Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Viola Davis and relative newcomer, Liana Liberato. The young actress stars as a teenager who is targeted by an online sexual predator, is a sobering look that centers on contemporary life via the Internet.
“I’m involved with a group called the Rape Foundation, which raises money for a rape treatment center in Santa Monica, CA and have met a lot of victims and their families,” Schwimmer said in Toronto this afternoon talking with journalist Anne Thompson during an onstage interview at the festival’s new filmmaker lounge and co-hosted by indieWIRE. “About seven years ago at one of our fundraisers, we invited a father to come and speak. He was so open and frank and honest about his experience and his process of recovery. It was so intense. His daughter had been raped when she was 14 and it almost destroyed him…”
Schwimmer found inspiration from the man’s story and took on “Trust,” in which Keener and Owen play the parents of teen daughter, Annie (Liberato) who is lured by an older man after initially pretending to be her age when they meet online.
“I found the story both very moving and disturbing,” said Owen alongside Schwimmer and Liberato. “I have two girls who are approaching the Facebook/Twitter age and it affected me. The script is so solid, real and upsetting…”
Both Schwimmer and Owen praised Liberato for her portrayal of Annie, noting the complexity of the role for any young actor.
“It’s a hugely difficult part and it’s the heart of the movie,” noted Owen. “She’s playing a very delicate age and she’s being asked to pull off something extraordinary and she [succeeds].”
Schwimmer found Liberato during casting and though her acting credits have been limited to a number of television appearances, her audition sealed the part.
“I went in like to any audition,” noted Liberato. “I was told David Schwimmer was the director and I thought, ‘OK, cool…’ Then later I was at a school playground and I got a call that I got the part and I fell down I was so excited. My friends had to pick me up.”
Liberato said the topics in the film have made her more cautious about how she interacts on the Internet and noted that she has had an unwelcome parallel experience as her character. “I’ve had a couple of people send me messages that are weird. It’s been creepy.”
“It’s not the obvious television story where people come together and love each other,” said Owen. People are pulled in different directions and it’s [multi-layered] which is why I wanted to do the part.”
Continuing Owen added, “When I was a child, you flirted face to face and you were aware of your actions and you could get embarrassed. Today with the Internet, there is a protective veneer…So many kids spend hours online and relating to each other and others on Facebook and I think that is potentially dangerous.”
The topic of rape and abuse are obvious challenges for any movie, never mind that this one happens to have some big stars. The film, which has its premiere tonight here in Toronto, is currently without U.S. distribution.
“Bringing movies to a market is a huge challenge,” said Schwimmer. “Even with three Academy Award-nominated actors we don’t have distribution yet. The subject is obviously a tough sell, though we’ve held off worrying about distribution up to now. We want to first have the movie relate to an audience.”
[Check out upcoming Live at the Lounge with indieWIRE chats happening this weekend and next week at the Toronto International Film Festival.]