3 questions for Tony Goldwyn, director of the buzzy title “Ezra” – The Hollywood Reporter

Tony Goldwyn is best known as an actor who has starred in films such as… Spirit (1990) and on television programs including scandal (2012-2018). But he has also quietly and consistently built up an impressive resume as a director A walk on the moon (1999), The last Kiss (2006), conviction (2010) and most recently Ezra. The dramedy just had its world premiere as a sales title at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it made audiences laugh, cry and delight, especially for the performance of its lead actor. Bobby Cannavale.

Ezra The focus is on a single father, the stand-up comedian Max (Cannavale), who fiercely protects his autistic son Ezra (William Fitzgerald) and ultimately takes him on the run rather than allow him to be sent to a special school and receive medical treatment. The film also stars Rose Byrne as the boy’s mother; Goldwyn as her new boyfriend; Robert De Niro as the boy’s grandfather; And Whoopi Goldberg, Rainn Wilson And Vera Farmiga as friends of the father.

On Thursday, Goldwyn, 63, announced The Hollywood Reporter a bit approximately EzraThe backstory, Cannavale’s performance and his hopes for the future of the film.

What led to your involvement in this film? It feels like a personal, passion project to you and perhaps to others involved.

Tony Spiridakis [the film’s screenwriter] and I have been best friends for over 40 years. We met at the Williamstown Theater Festival in 1981, where I got my first professional job (I was still at Brandeis). Tony was the first person I saw when I stepped out of my ’77 Chevy Nova on a beautiful morning in Berkshire, and I knew immediately that we would be friends for life. We were witnesses at our weddings and are godparents to each other’s first children. The film is based on Tony’s relationship with his autistic son Dimitri. (Tony has two neurodiverse sons, both of whom are exceptionally talented. Nikos is now a film editor and Dimitri is an exceptional painter.)

After going through a similar ordeal to Max’s – minus the kidnapping – Tony was determined to write a film based on his experiences and has been working on various drafts for over a decade. I read each one, but simply as a friend who lived through those difficult years with him. Two years ago Tony called and said he had reworked the script and wanted to hear my opinion. I was overwhelmed by the progress he had made and told him that I wanted to direct it and that we should produce the film together. What better expression of our 40-year friendship, I thought, than bringing Tony’s story to the screen?

When putting the film together, it was crucial that we keep the autistic community at the heart of the process. In addition to those on our production team and cast with autistic children, we have several neurodiverse people in our cast and crew – chief among them is William A. Fitzgerald, the extraordinary young autistic actor who plays Ezra.

Can you tell us a few words about Bobby Cannavale and his performance?

Bobby Cannavale embodies everything we were looking for from Max. Bobby brings a kind of electric volatility and danger to everything he does. But in his work you can always see the enormous heartbeat in his chest. Bobby is incredibly smart, insightful and funny. As it turns out, he also has a long-standing passion for the world of stand-up comedy. After all, Bobby’s greatest joy is being a father to his three sons. As destructive as Max’s behavior may be, in Bobby’s hands, we never question Max’s undying devotion to his child.

From a distributor’s perspective, what is the ideal “home” for the film? And how would you describe the level of interest in the film that distributors showed at the festival?

We had an incredible response at TIFF, with a standing ovation at the end of our premiere screening and a second when I introduced William Fitzgerald to the audience. The response from critics has also been great so far, so our sales team is talking to several interested parties. However, as a filmmaker, I just want a distributor who is enthusiastic about the film and really committed to it. These are uncertain times in the industry right now, but with the right support, I am 100 percent confident that this film can reach a wide audience CODA did.

Brian Ashcraft

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