TIFF 2012: Mary Pickford receives the not-so-silent treatment

The Canadian silent film star is the subject of an upcoming film. We met the actress playing her

In the lobby of the TIFF Bell Lightbox, the downtown headquarters of the festival, passersby and fans took photos of themselves on a red carpet complete with a TIFF-emblazoned backdrop. Meanwhile, upstairs on the sixth floor, invited guests lined up to get into a party hosted by Julie Pacino, daughter of Al, and others in celebration of their upcoming Mary Pickford film, The First.

Like a mirage among the glitterati, I spotted colleague Brian D. Johnson, resident Maclean’s film critic, holding court, and reflecting on how ironic the deafening DJ music was against a backdrop of silent Mary Pickford films being projected about the room. He also pointed out Peggy Siegel in the room, one of New York City’s most famous publicists and organizer of some major parties and movie screenings, who I “met” last year at the festival during a dinner hosted by Harvey Weinstein for The Artist, not to mention the talent in the room involved with the film. There was Lily Rabe, an American actress, who will play Pickford and Michael Pitt, who’s been cast as Pickford’s first husband, Owen Moore. No word yet on who will play Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks–Pickford’s second husband–who along with Pickford and D.W. Griffith founded United Artists in 1919.

Rabe, who told me that she’s “been sort of obsessed with Pickford for a while,” secured the role earlier in the summer after being spotted in a play. “I’m learning so much more now about her,” she said. “I just want to disappear into the material.”

Dressed in a dark blue sleeveless dress with a tulip skirt, Rabe admitted that she’s been told throughout her life that she resembles the Canadian silent film actress. “But I don’t want to think that’s why I got the part.” She’s hoping to see some films while in Toronto. “I’m desperate to see the Master,” she said. “And On the Road. My friend is in it.”

That would be Kirsten Dunst.

Production starts next year on The First.