Don McKellar talks about lovelorn phone calls, TIFF’s good ol’ days, and inviting strange women to his hotel room

Don McKellar talks about lovelorn phone calls, TIFF’s good ol’ days, and inviting strange women to his hotel room

Don McKellar misses Bette Midler (Photo by Karon Liu) 

Don McKellar is out to find romance on a modern day cellphone—and if that means being shady in a hotel room, so be it. This is the basic concept of Imaginary Lovers, an art installation consisting of four monitors showing films that McKellar has directed as part of TIFF’s Future Projections series. McKellar also kicked off the festival as a governor for the Talent Lab, had a role in Leslie, My Name Is Evil (the trippy Christian murder film) and starred in Dilip Mehta’s gala premiere, Cooking With Stella. Really, Don, next year you need to step it up.

Considering McKellar’s schedule is so barren, we thought we’d sit down with him and discuss loneliness and love—the themes that intertwine in his voyeuristic videos, most of which feature women of the world professing their love via grainy cellphones.

TIFF.TO: When are you loneliest?
MCKELLAR: When I go to L.A. I’m almost lonely within an hour of arriving. The fact that everyone is in the film industry makes me feel lonely.
TIFF.TO: Have you ever called a lover to profess your heartfelt emotions?
MCKELLAR: [Offers a mischievous look] I’ve tried to convey my means. Sometimes you can sit in a hotel room and find yourself trying to sound poetic and embarrassingly romantic.
TIFF.TO: How do you get women to feel comfortable sharing their intimate secrets?
MCKELLAR: At first it was sort of awkward. I was in Istanbul and I’d seen this one woman in a Turkish film. I asked to be introduced to her, and then I asked her if she’d like to come up to my hotel room. It sounded very shady.
TIFF.TO: Why can’t we all just be romantic like in Mozart’s time?
MCKELLAR: It’s harder to be distant. Distance is nice.
TIFF.TO: Do men gush their carnal lust on a mobile?
MCKELLAR: It would be a different kind of call.
TIFF.TO: What is the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you during TIFF?
MCKELLAR: Certain parties that I can’t describe for legal reasons.
TIFF.TO: Tell us about the good old days.
MCKELLAR: There used to be hospitality suites, and everyone would go there. Robert De Niro would be there and Bette Midler. Now it’s very hard to party hop.