Lain's Log

Robert Lantos

December 19/11.

Unexpected, unanticipated, unbelievable. On Thursday night, had dinner with Canada's best known film producer, Robert Lantos!

How'd THAT happen? Lemme tell ya.

My husband, Sam's new colleague at his company, National Public Relations, is the stunning Julia Johnston, (Vice President, Corporate Practice Lead). I met her for the first time during the National Christmas party on December 2nd,

at the elegant Windsor Arms Hotel. She was every bit as beautiful, (both inside & out), as Sam had told me. By the end of the evening, after hearing I had interviewed Robert Lantos at a news conference, 33 years ago, she surprised us by suggesting dinner together as a foursome - Sam & I, with her and Robert, (whom she's known for many years). She asked us to give her a couple of available evening dates while Robert was here in Toronto during the holidays. I suggested four possibilities and one of them turned out to be perfect!

Little did I know, it would be a fabulously fancy Italian dinner at Mistura, on Davenport Road.

The first time I saw Robert Lantos was at the Toronto news conference for his highly acclaimed film, In Praise of Older Women. It was extremely controversial at the time and put the Toronto film festival on the map. (In fact, it was the very first movie to be screened by the "Festival of Festivals", which later became known as TIFF - the Toronto International Film Festival).

When the film was released, I was 23. Robert was 28. The second I saw him at the news conference table and heard his voice, I was smitten! He had that fabulous moustache, the accent, the attitude, the charm, the smarts, the power, everything. The other stars of the film, Helen Shaver and Tom Berenger were there too, but I couldn't take my eyes off Robert! (I later found out I was not alone. EVERYONE seemed to feel that way about him)!

Here's a promo clip from In Praise of Older Women.

The film made headlines all over the world due to the Ontario Censor Board's attempts to cut a hot scene featuring Berenger. (For the record, Helen Shaver went on to win the Best Actress award and Marilyn Lightstone won Best Supporting Actress).

Tom Berenger in the controversial scene. The Ontario Censor Board wanted 36 seconds sliced from the film.

Lantos quickly became a sensation, fielding questions galore about the nudity and sexual frankness of his film. The more he talked about it, the more titillated film-goers became, and soon, he had a full-blown scandal on his hands! The outrageous uproar shocked Lantos, as this was his first film. The censorship troubles brought him more publicity than he ever could have imagined, and resulted in one wild, crazy and stormy opening night. The theatre was severely overbooked, it was pouring rain, there was a public transit strike going on and the Ontario Censor Board had no control over the throngs of movie fans who caused a near-riot in their zeal to get inside to see the film.

Hundreds were turned away and told they could see the movie at a second screening in another theatre an hour or two later. But which version would they see? Cut or uncut?

Here's a link to a CBC TV news story about the opening night of In Praise of Older Women.

Me, Robert, Julia Johnston & Sam

Over dinner, Robert told us the compelling real story. He prepared two versions of the film, one with the sizzling scene intact, the other, cut. Just before showtime, a censor board rep showed up at the Elgin Theatre and bounded up to see Tommy Sharp, the projectionist, to officially check things out. In an interview, Tommy told the CBC, "I guess they wanted to make sure there was no hanky panky/switcheroo."

The scene in question involved Tom Berenger's bare butt. Apparently, the public was at liberty to see the bare buttocks, but NOT if the butt was "moving" in any way - (which it was)! Lantos requested special status for the festival screening, so the audience could see it the way it was meant to be viewed.

Before the film rolled, John Roberts, (then Secretary of State of Canada in Pierre Trudeau's cabinet), took to the stage, explaining to the audience, the importance of freedom of speech and the right to run this film, without cuts. Lantos hadn't expected such support, and told us, "Roberts immediately became my hero!"

The film ran the way Robert Lantos had hoped, (since police were reluctant to halt it after John Roberts' comments). After that, it was an extremely happy night for Lantos.

Lantos went on to many successful award winning nights in the years to come. Here he is at the Genie Awards - 1981

1991 - Robert wins the Genie award for Best Motion Picture - Black Robe. He also took home the Air Canada Award for outstanding contributions to the film industry.

I apologized to Julia for monopolizing the conversation with Robert for so long. She was sweet, gracious, and insisted she was happy I got to ask him all the questions I ever wanted to pose to him. When I asked Robert if he would allow us to take pics for my blog, he immediately agreed.

Robert regaled us with countless stories, but since he's writing a book of his own, I chose only to reveal his comments regarding In Praise of Older Women. (Hey, I can relate)!

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