“Gloria Grahame has the face that you remember,” said director Paul McGuigan, “but she doesn’t necessarily have the name that you remember.” This is likely to change after the release of his Toronto Film Festival hit Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool, which details what happened when the iconic star of Hollywood classics such as It’s A Wonderful Life, In A Lonely Place and The Big Heat found herself performing onstage in shabby British repertory theatres during the 1970s, long after her once-glittering movie career went south.
The sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated Bening seems born to play the role, and when she visited the Deadline studio with McGuigan and co-star Jamie Bell, who plays her much younger British lover Peter Turner, she said that it was a project many years in the making, developed many years ago as a passion project by James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, who knew the real Grahame. “I don’t really remember when it [began],” she said, “but it was a long time ago, and when we talked about it, it was in a different iteration. But we had spoken about it many years ago, and that’s when I had initially read the book which Peter Turner wrote – this gorgeous, beautiful, tasteful book about his relationship with Gloria Grahame.”
Though there’s still a lot of mystery about Graham’s life, the draw for Bening was the romance of this unlikely love story. “I really trusted Peter, and this [story] is really seen through Peter’s eyes,” she enthused. “The book is a very beautiful, kind of impressionistic book. There’s nothing like it. There’s certainly nothing like it in terms of someone having written about having had an affair with a film star, because its the opposite of exploitative or prurient. So the way he loved her is the way that I think we all came to love her.”
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Deadline Studio at TIFF 2017 is presented by Calii Love, Watford Group, Philosophy Canada, and Equinox. Special thanks to Dan Gunam at Calii Love for location and production assistance; and Ontario Camera for equipment assistance. Video producer: Meaghan Gable; lighting and camera: Neil Hansen; design: Dialla Kawar; sound recording: Ida Jokinen.