Bacon, Firth defend sexy Egoyan film

BRUCE KIRKLAND - Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:21 AM ET

Atom Egoyan's controversial new opus Where The Truth Lies is a murder mystery and not a sex film, according to its American co-star Kevin Bacon.

But, as Bacon and English co-star Colin Firth discover while talking about their work in the made-in-Toronto project, it is impossible to discuss it without looping back to sex.

That is because human sexuality -- as recreation, exploitation and even degradation -- is so integral to the mystery plot.

"But what if a movie is about sex?" Firth asks rhetorically, Bacon at his side, in a Sun interview. "I think sex is a very important element of this. I don't mean the pure sex scenes. This movie could be about sex without a single sex scene."

Happily for Egoyan but unfortunately for uptight U.S. censors, there are a lot of sex scenes, including an orgy involving the naked bodies of Bacon, Firth and their Canadian co-star, blond ingenue Rachel Blanchard.

As a result of the explicit nature of the scenes -- although no real sex acts were performed -- the film received the dreaded NC-17 rating in the U.S., a commercially punishing label that producer Robert Lantos calls "the mark of the leper." In Toronto on Friday, Where The Truth Lies will open uncensored with a "18A" label, making it an adults-only experience, as it should be, Lantos says.

Firth says the film is not titillating.

"It is about how destructive sex can be, and these guys use it as a kind of weapon. This, I think, is dealing with the uglier and more destructive side of sex and it explicitly deals with the consequences of it."

Bacon -- in his own words playing "the ugly American" -- and Firth -- as "the buttoned-down British guy" -- are two superstar singer-comics in a 1950s act that obliquely invokes Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, although this is not meant to be their story.

After one fateful night of sex and drugs, a woman's dead body is found in their bathtub. Two decades later, an investigative journalist writing an expose book tries to unravel the truth about what happened that night.

Like most of Egoyan's films, the story cuts between time periods and sexual exploits are rife in both eras.

Firth is incredulous that the U.S. censors, whom he thinks are so soft on violence, are so repressive about sex.

"It is one of the most powerful driving forces in human nature," he says, "and it has to be completely ignored by storytellers? It has to be left out? But what if you took it out of music? There would be no Marvin Gaye, would there? There would be no rap. There would be no rock 'n' roll.

"Take sex out of life and out of art, there would be no Rodin, there would be no Michelangelo.

"If you sanitize all of that to that extent, what are you actually left with? You hamstring (an artist's) whole ability to tell stories. And, at no point are we just supposed to be getting off on love scenes in this film. I pity anyone who gets off on the sex scenes!"

Bacon says that Where The Truth Lies "brilliantly" breaks down the different sexual moments because each is designed to evoke a different mood and each has a different meaning.

For example, the "ugly" in his American is established in his first sexual encounter after the duo headlines a charity telethon.

"I'm going from this teary-eyed angel helping out little kids to banging this publicist," Bacon says bluntly.

On the comic side, Egoyan had to engage "a bag lady" to ensure that neither his nor Firth's naughty bits showed.

There was no sex in the sex scenes, Firth says.

The scenes are so choreographed the actors feel nothing.

"Totally, everything's out of it. Filming an action is artificial. The whole thing is an illusion ... it is breathing life and apparent spontaneity into something that couldn't be less spontaneous."

Bacon laughs.

"It's funny, you asked about how we have to get back to the fact that it's a murder mystery, and we're still talking about sex!"


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