TIFF Journal: Meet Lauren Lee Smith
In conversation with one of Canada’s coolest acting talents.
Welcome to ELLECanada.com’s official TIFF journal! This festival, Laura deCarufel and Jennifer Lee, the co-editors of
, have the high honour of reporting from TIFF’s coolest events. Stay tuned for party coverage, profiles, and behind-the-scenes scoop! In
A Night for Dying Tigers, Lauren Lee Smith gives a performance with bite. One of the hottest Canadian tickets at TIFF, the film focus on a day in the life of a brilliant, complicated family rocked with tragedy. (Think
The Royal Tenenbaums…in Vancouver.) It’s packed with stars—Jennifer Beals, Gil Bellows, Kathleen Robertson—and dark surprises. ELLE caught up with Vancouver-born actress Lauren Lee Smith (
CSI, The L Word), who imbues her volatile character, Karen, with humanity, even grace. Smith talks about her favourite scene in the film, bonding with the
Tigers cast, plus her style icons, favourite films, top spot in Vancouver and much more.
Karen is such an intense and complicated character. How did you prepare for the role? “I found out about the film just a few days before we started shooting. Terry [Miles] sent me the script a month or so before, and I fell in love with it, but it looked like I wouldn’t be able do it as I was supposed to be shooting something else. A few days before shooting, the actress for the role of Karen fell out, and Terry called and said, ‘By any chance at all are you available?’ It just so happened my other project had been pushed—I was even thinking of calling Terry just to see if there was any chance. So long story short: There was no real prep. But I knew, from the first time reading it, that Karen was in me.”
Were there any characters or performances from other films that inspired your performance? “Two weeks leading up to the shoot, I was dealing with some personal issues, that were putting me very much in a ‘Karen’ state. However, in real life I don’t tend to act out the way she does. For me this was all about letting out personal stuff. It was my therapy, if you will!”
In the movie, you’re called on to erupt into extreme emotion. How did you handle that? “For me, that’s one of the best parts of my job! If you are in a very safe environment and have 100 percent trust in your director and fellow actors, it is such a gift to be able to go to places, even dark places, and act out or express things in a way you never would in real life.”
Was there a particular scene that you found the most challenging, and if so, why? “Hmmm…the scene in the mirror was a bit strange: To be acting opposite yourself! Usually I try not to watch playback or rushes, because I don’t want to see anything until the film is complete. The few times I have, I find I just become too self-obsessed with meaningless stuff and vanity. So that scene was a bit weird, because, to me, it was actually one of the most emotional scenes I had.”
What’s your favourite thing about the movie?
“My favourite scenes are when we are sitting around playing games, because none of that was scripted. We were all—OK, most of us—were really drinking wine, and we just had so much fun. In the film you just see snippets, but we shot so much of that stuff, and there were times that Terry was shooting when we didn’t even realize.”
You’ve worked with Jennifer Beals before on The L Word
– how did the rest of the group bond and get to know each other? “Because we had no prep time, we knew that we had to bond and create chemistry very quickly—luckily, every cast member is so insanely talented that was not hard to do! We shot almost the entire film in the one house. There was no place to hide for three weeks—there were no trailers for us to go to in between scenes. We all just hung out in the basement and chatted and ate, and Jennifer always had some fun game for us to play. After the first day we were all extremely comfy with each other and felt like we all knew our place in the ‘family unit.’”
What’s next for you? I saw that you’re working on a TV series with Ken Finkleman—can you tell me a bit about that? “Yes I just finished 13 episodes of Ken’s new show,
Good Dog, about a very neurotic writer who has many quirks and issues—it’s a very, very funny show. I play his much younger girlfriend, who convinces him in the first episode that myself, two young children, and an Austrian nanny should move in! Next week I start on the second season of
The Listener. I play the new detective, Michelle. That’s all I can say about that for now!”
Who are some of your favourite filmmakers?
“David Lynch, Michael Haneke, Tom Tykwer, Fassbinder.”
What are some of your favourite films? “
Tin drum, Ma Mere, Lola, The Piano Teacher, Wild at Heart.”
In fashion terms, is there anyone whose style you particularly admire? “Lauren Hutton, Katharine Hepburn, Charlotte Gainsbourg.”
What book are you reading now? “Ken Finkleman’s new novel,
Noah’s Turn, and
Dr. Eckeners Dream Machine by Douglas Botting.”
What’s on your iPod? “Bon Iver.”
What’s your favourite way to spend a Sunday? “Reading in bed while drinking lattes and eating chocolate croissants with my hubby and our two dogs.”
Your dream travel destination? “Iceland.”
Favourite fragrance? “Coconut.”
Song you know all the words to?
“Anything by Broken Social Scene.”
Favourite way to spend a day in Vancouver? “At my house in Cultus Lake with my family.”
Read more of our TIFF Journal!
Day 5: Tastemakers Lounge,
Day 2, 3 & 4 at the Grey Goose SoHo House Club
TIFF vs. Cannes: A tale of two film festivals in star gazing, hot restos and party It spots
At the film festival’s best party: 5 Reasons why the Vanity Fair bash was TIFF’s top fete
Meeting Sally Hershberger: Seven questions for the world’s top hair stylist
At the Nikki Beach lingerie fashion show
Meet Katie Boland: Our pick for Canada’s sweetheart on TIFF style, rappers and
The ultimate film festival playlist: A top Toronto DJ picks 11 tunes for 11 nights of TIFF madness
At the Black Swan gala: Inside the exclusive premiere of the fashion set’s most anticipated film of the year
The festival’s A-list drink:
as a blackberry cocktail. Why not?
Beauty 911: Expert tips on looking rested, refreshed, and camera-ready
Skin care 911: Healthy skin tips during TIFF madness
Snaps from last night’s best party
Meet Lauren Lee Smith: In conversation with one of Canada’s coolest acting talents
Day 1: At the Aveda Experience Centre and the Bell Lightbox
On pre-festival party duty: At Birks and 99 Sudbury