TIFF13: Paul Haggis’ ‘Third’ act

The Canadian director (pictured) discusses his Elgin superstition and shopping the indie Third Person at Toronto.

This article originally appeared in Playback’s Fall 2013 issue. 

Paul Haggis got the theatre and slot he wanted for Third Person, his latest movie to have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

“I asked for Elgin Theatre, on Monday night,” the Hollywood director recalls of a conversation with Toronto fest toppers Piers Handling and Cameron Bailey.

The gilded movie palace with a short red carpet on Yonge Street is where Haggis’ Crash debuted before becoming a surprise winner at the 2006 Academy Awards, including winning best picture.

A year later in 2007, Haggis’ In the Valley of Ellah also screened at the Elgin.

You need to forgive the Oscar winning writer/director for his superstition about wanting to three-peat in the Elgin.

Haggis has been quiet since his 2010 effort The Next Three Days, which had him directing a studio-driven action thriller that underwhelmed at the box office.

Third Person, by contrast, is, Haggis insists, a “very personal film” that took him two-and-a-half years to write and another year to produce.

“I’m just a few weeks from finishing the film, just in time for Toronto,” he adds.

PHM_1296.dngHaggis also went outside the studio system to fully finance Third Person out of Belgium, via Corsan/Film Finance XII.

“I made one call and he said yes,” the director recalls about a conversation with Corsan CEO Paul Breuls.

The James Franco and Mila Kunis-starrer follows three intersecting story lines that explore romance and relationships in New York, Rome and Paris.

Corsan World Sales will shop the remaining world rights to Third Person at TIFF, while CAA and Paradigm will look to land a U.S. distribution deal.

“I’m pretty confident it will sell. We’ll sell it before, or sell it there,” Haggis says of a U.S. deal for Third Person coming before, at, or out of Toronto.

The Canadian-born writer/director is also confident about the box office prospects for Third Person, even if he is a bit of a novice in the indie film world.

“This is all new to me. I like the independent world. I much prefer it to Casino Royale,” Haggis says, alluding to his script for the 22nd James Bond film.

“But I’m happier on the fringes, being an outsider. That’s part of being a Canadian in Hollywood,” he adds.

Haggis photo by Alex Gibson

Third Person has its world premiere on Sept. 9 at the Elgin Theatre at 9 p.m., with additional screenings on Sept. 10 at the Ryerson and Sept. 13 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

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This story is featured in the Fall 2013 issue of Playback. Digital and PDF versions available.