On the Town with Shinan: Chris Rock touches down in Toronto

By Shinan Govani

© Getty

It was like returning to the scene of the deal. Popping into town this week at Toronto's Scotiabank Theatre was Chris Rock, there to rah-rah-rah his new movie, Top Five. It had been, as he was only too quick to acknowledge, quite the journey since he last unspooled the film in the Canadian metropolis.

When he premiered the passion project here at TIFF, in September, it set off the biggest bidding war to go down at the Fest and put Chris in a whole new conversation: Top Five, in which he triple-threats as writer, director and star, was quickly being described in some quarters as the “black Annie Hall."

Even that day itself had been quite the journey within a journey: he'd personally presented the film at VIP screenings in St. Louis, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, and...well...Canada. It was a page out of the Tom Cruise Playbook, when the superstar flew to various cities in a row earlier this year to flog his blockbuster, Edge of Tomorrow.

“It's my project. Why wouldn't I show up in person?” retorted Chris when asked about his strategy, flashing that signature Cheshire grin of his. “I take none of it for granted.”

Chris Rock and Rosario Dawson in Top Five

Those who've been paying attention will know that his TIFF debut in September led to a circus that itself could make a movie. “The bids were coming in before the movie was over,” Chris recalled recently in an interview. “They had a little after-party at the Soho House in Toronto. And you know, you’re just shaking hands. It’s the Lionsgate people, and it’s the Fox 2000 people and Paramount and Screen Gems. 'I hope we’re doing it with you. I hope we’re doing it with you.'”

The jockeying was on, big time. “Everybody was on the phone all night,” Chris remembers more. “It’s like election returns. It’s at 6 (million). It’s at 10. You know what I mean? A lot of money for a film at a festival is like $3 million, so for a movie to sell for $12.5 million is unheard of.” (Paramount ended up nabbing the film in the end.)

Both funny and “real”: that's the two cents from many who've caught Top Five. Urbane, too. And Chris, for the record, would like nothing more than to make more movies. “I like control,” he says. “I like creating a world.”

Here! There!

    * The audience sang "Happy Birthday" – twice! – to Donny Osmond when he and his sis debuted his show, Donny and Marie: Christmas in Toronto, on Tuesday at the Princess of Wales Theatre. The eternal heartthrob was turning a sprightly 57 that day.
    * Kim Cattrall glammed up the mountain scene in B.C. when she arrived to accept the “Maverick Award' at the just-wrapped Whistler Film Festival. She didn't ski, though. She doesn't do skiing, she said.
    * Elisha Cuthbert joined a medley of socials and media types at a handsome dinner held this week at The Fifth by Anthropologie. It was to mark the opening of their latest store in Toronto, on Queen West.
    * Corey Stoll of House of Cards fame was found hanging out recently at the cafe in The Drake Hotel.
    * Cara Delevingne's encroachment into movies continues: the Vogue girl has been cast in Suicide Squad, a flick that will shoot in Toronto next year. The production, based on the DC comic by the same name, will boast a star-studded cast that also includes Tom Hardy, Will Smith, and Jared Leto.

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