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Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton play off each other in ‘Ruth & Alex’


By Diana Mehta


Mortgan Freeman

TORONTO _ Some of the most intimate moments between a long-married couple played by Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton in their new film “Ruth and Alex” weren’t even originally part of the script.

The two veteran actors simply played off each other as certain scenes were filmed from afar.

“We were very lucky with their chemistry _ because that’s not directing, that’s them,” film director Richard Loncraine said in an interview during the Toronto International Film Festival, where “Ruth and Alex” had its premiere.

“Directing them was really easy. Directing actors is a little bit of a myth, you just have to create an environment in which they feel safe.”

It’s not that Freeman and Keaton made up the script as they went along, Loncraine said, they just elaborated on it, adding nuances which brought depth and warmth to the film.

“Diane, it’s not that she ad-libs dialogue, she tends to interject, it’s her manner,” the director explained. “It creates a great vitality so you have a different energy level from her.”

Loncraine recounted one scene from the film in which the two actors walk down a New York City street arguing about how to best care for their injured dog.

“That was all shot on a long lens, on two cameras at the same time,” he said. “Yes, the dialogue was written for them, but they ad-libbed around it at the same time and they would throw stuff in.”

Scenes were also allowed to play out to allow Freeman and Keaton to really bring their characters come to life.

“Actors never like breaking scenes into too many short bits, they’re like racehorses, they want to act, they want to get on with it,” Loncraine said.

The film, based on the novel “Heroic Measures,” follows the couple over an eventful weekend in which they contemplate selling the Brooklyn apartment they’ve lived in for 40 years.

Cynthia Nixon _ of “Sex and the City” fame _ plays a somewhat over-zealous real estate agent who urges them to reach a decision while the city also deals with an exaggerated terrorist alert.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs through Sept. 14.

_ Follow (at)dianamehta on Twitter.

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