The Canadian actor dishes on acting for his pal Sarah Polley, talking dirty to Michelle Williams, and how tasty Toronto looks in the summertime.
1. A friendship with Sarah Polley has its benefits.
A wiry and charming actor with a distinct talent for smouldering glances, Luke Kirby has long enjoyed a healthy career on stage and screen, on both sides of the border. But he’s enjoying a bigger share of the spotlight this year thanks to meaty leading roles in two movies made in Toronto, where the Hamilton-born 34-year-old lived for three years before moving to Brooklyn. After getting roughed up by Samuel L. Jackson in The Samaritan, Kirby has a gentler time wooing Michelle Williams in Take This Waltz, the second feature by his friend Sarah Polley. As Kirby says over the phone from Griffin, Georgia—where he’s shooting a regular part in Rectify, a new dramatic series for the Sundance Channel—the experience of making Take This Waltz two summers ago was a “charmed” one for many reasons, not the least of which was Polley herself. “Just knowing that she would be at the helm gave me a feeling of giddy delight,” he raves. “Then to find out how incredibly, shockingly, disturbingly capable and talented she is as a director, I just felt so nourished being at the job every day. Being close to home was also very good, and being around friends and old haunts. Given the tone of the project and my character needing to fall into a love of sorts, it felt like a very safe place to do it.”
2. Talking dirty to Michelle Williams wasn’t such a chore, either.
Since Take This Waltz is the kind of movie that relies on the chemistry between its leads, Kirby was fortunate to spend some time getting to know his co-star before shooting began. Yet one thing they didn’t rehearse was the first scene they shot together, in which the two have a racy conversation over cocktails at the Lakeview. “The talk in that scene is very intimate and sexual and loving,” Kirby says. “I don’t know if it was a conscious choice by Sarah to start the shoot like this, but it turned out to be a wonderful launching pad, to sit there and speak those words and listen to each other. I really knew in that moment that Michelle was going to be incredibly available. That’s basically what all the good actors do—be open and present and not leave the room until you have to.”
3. He thinks Polley’s portrait of Toronto is good enough to lick.
With its warm light and oversaturated colours, Polley’s film presents an unusually vibrant view of the city. Kirby says he was “stunned at the boldness of it” when he first saw what she and cinematographer Luc Montpellier had captured. “I said to Sarah, ‘I want to lick your movie!’ I couldn’t believe it.” He believes the movie also captures how Toronto feels when summer rolls around. “Culturally, there is a certain degree of enthusiasm particular to Toronto,” he says. “The gift of winter is that you get to experience summer with a certain heightened quality. I grew up in Guelph and I definitely know how vibrant it can feel.” Most striking of all was the impression made by Mackenzie Crescent, the odd but beautiful little street where much of this love story takes place. “In all my time in Toronto I never even knew it existed,” Kirby admits. “You don’t find a lot of streets with that kind of curve—there’s an elevation change to it, too. It’s all quite lovely. I feel like it showed up for the movie—maybe Sarah made it manifest somehow.”
Take This Waltz opens June 29.