Searching for Shawn Levy at the Toronto International Film Festival
It was right after I was run over by a food service cart filled with fruit, that’s when I started questioning my motivations and sanity.
“Hey, buddy? Are you OK? Would you like some fruit?” This was the voice of a terrified hotel employee who had just slammed his food service cart into a human being who was sitting outside of a hotel room in which Shawn Levy -- the director of ‘This Is Where I Leave You,’ and probably best known for directing the ‘Night at the Museum’ movies -- was supposedly inside.
I was OK. It had been a very loud collision. I turned down his offer of free fruit, which I think was meant to serve as both an offer of condolences and as a payoff to stay quiet about what had just happened. (I suspect his boss wouldn’t be happy to hear that he ran over a human being.) But it was at this moment that I thought to myself, Why am I doing this?.
I really don’t have a strong opinion about Shawn Levy one way or another. Certainly not strong enough that I’d put myself in front of a food service cart in order to talk to him. I liked ‘Real Steel’; I didn’t like ‘The Internship’. Though, his movies quietly make a lot of money. This has a lot to do with the two (soon to be three) ‘Night of the Museum’ movies, which have grossed just under a billion dollars worldwide.
Let’s back up a bit. The only reason I’m writing this is to try and give a taste of what it’s like to cover a major film festival (in this case, the Toronto International Film Festival). I am not at all suggesting it’s not fun, or that I’m not fortunate to be in attendance. It is fun and I do realize how fortunate I am. But it’s also hectic and -- through a combination of sleep deprivation, hangovers and a jam-packed schedule – it’s sometimes impossible. Sometime you wind up on the wrong end of a food service cart.
I had been scheduled to interview Shawn Levy for the past week. The interview time had already been changed four times due to both conflicts in his schedule and my schedule – which is a little on the high end, but something I’ve certainly experienced before.
It was Saturday. I had just interviewed Jason Reitman and I had some time before I was supposed to speak to Shawn Levy. I arrived for the interview an hour early – thinking I could get some work done on the hotel wi-fi while I waited. When I checked in, I was told by a publicist that I wasn’t on the schedule, but that she’d figure it all out. Life’s full of mysteries, I thought to myself, and found a corner couch to get some work done. (Any free moment at a film festival is used to work. There’s no such thing as quietly looking off into the distance, contemplating our own mortality.)
A few minutes later, I re-checked the email confirmation I had received. The time was right, followed by the word “Sunday.” Was today Sunday? I actually had to look this up to make sure. It wasn’t Sunday. The previous schedule changes had all been for Saturday. Now it was scheduled for Sunday. I hadn’t noticed. I am an idiot. I had arrived 25 hours early for an interview with Shawn Levy.
Of course, the time on Sunday didn’t work for me and this interview with Shawn Levy had to be rescheduled once again. Now, a sane person may have just let this one go. I didn’t really need to sit in a room and talk to Shawn Levy about his new movie for ten minutes. I didn’t really need to talk to anyone, for that matter. But it was on The Schedule. When you’re so tired and so busy that you forget what day it is, the only thing you have is The Schedule. And Shawn Levy was on The Schedule. If something was on The Schedule, it had to happen. I must talk to Shawn Levy.
The interview was rescheduled for 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. I was told that Levy had a “hard out," which makes it sound like he’s a great baseball player, but really means that if I’m late, he’s going to leave. What made this difficult was that I had a different interview that was on The Schedule right before that at a hotel that was not within walking distance.
I was running toward the Toronto subway. I was running to the Toronto subway so that I wouldn’t be late for an interview with Shawn Levy. For whatever reason, at this moment, I felt like my world would end if I didn’t make it to this interview on time. I tried to buy a subway token. I was told that the minimum subway token purchase is three – this makes no sense at all, but the man was friendly because he’s from Canada, so I bought three subway tokens even though I only needed one.
I arrived for my interview with Shawn Levy five minutes early. I checked in. The publicist yelled, “You made it!” I felt good. I had made it. “Go up to room 619 and wait, someone will come get you and bring you to Shawn.”
I smiled with a sense of accomplishment.
It had been 15 minutes and no one had come to get me. I knocked on room 619; there was no answer. I sat down. I was tired. I’ll give him another ten minutes, I thought. It was at this moment that I saw a food cart filled with fruit barreling down the hallway.
I went back down to the lobby. Before I could say a word, the publicist told me, “He left. You had just missed him. Hey, we tried.” I wasn’t even mad. It was the calmest I had been the entire festival. “We did,” I responded.
On the way out, I saw the food cart filled with fruit that had run me over. I took a mango.
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and GQ. He is the senior editor of ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.