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Montreal World Film Festival welcomed iconic actor Tony Curtis

Calling himself "one of the last of the Hollywood movie stars", the Montreal World Film Festival welcomed iconic actor Tony Curtis this past weekend. Entering the press conference in a wheel chair and looking a bit puffy, the 79 year old actor, once hailed as the most beautiful face in movies, was still remarkably spry and witty, with a voice that revealed his early roots as a street tough in New York City. Curtis was in Montreal to accept the Prix des Ameriques for his lifetime career achievents.

"I have lived many lives", Curtis commented. His many lives and loves, including a decade long bout with drugs in the 1970s and 1980s that almost ended his life and career, will be all be chronicled in American Prince, his biography due out this October.

"I've made more than 100 films, but I'm especially proud of a few of them", Curtis shared. When asked by a journalist which were his favorites, he listed a diverse group including Sweet Smell of Success, The Defiant Ones, Some Like It Hot and The Boston Strangler. "I worked with so many talented people over the years, but I still feel that I only really hit my peak with a few people who were willing to give me a chance at a part that was a little beyond my reach."

The Festival is screening two of the veteran actor's films. Some Like It Hot, which has been dubbed by many critics to be the funniest film ever made in Hollywood, casts Curtis against Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe in a satiric romp set in the roaring Twenties. After they witness the gangland slaying known as the St. Valentine Day's Massacre, Curtis and Lemmon, two down-on-their-luck musicians decide to hide out from the gangsters who are looking for them by putting on dresses and wigs and joining an all-girl band headed to Florida. Their adventures in and out of drag has made this film a favorite for generations. The film screened for Montreal audiences, who again delighted to its witty script by writer/director Billy Wilder and the brilliant coming timing of its lead actors, this past weekend.

Also screening at the Festival is a new documentary film, produced by Curtis and his wife Jill, appropriately dubbed the Jill & Tony Curtis Story. When the screen legend met the equestrian rider Jill Vanderberg in 1992, he never dreamed how his own life would be changed by the encounter. A championship horse rider, Vanderberg opened up the tender side of the actor, whose career was on the skids after two decades of booze and drug addiction. Reawakening his interest in painting and encouraging him to restart relationships with his children (including actress Jamie Lee Curtis), Curtis speaks lovingly of the wisdom that has come with older age, when his outer beauty may have dimmed but his inner beauty has had a chance to really grow and shine.

As for plans to appear in other films, Curtis has not ruled anything out. "If someone has an interesting part for me, I will always consider it. I'm still a long way from the finish line".

Sandy Mandelberger, Montreal FF Dailies Editor

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