Take This Waltz, Sarah Polley’s second feature, had just made its world premiere the night before at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival when I sat down to talk to costar Luke Kirby. In casting her romantic drama, Polley first looked toward Hollywood, casting Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen as Toronto couple Margot and Lou. But in filling the role of Daniel, the handsome neighbor who catches Margot’s eye and threatens her ostensibly happy marriage, Polley stuck closer to home and turned to the 34-year-old Hamilton, Ontario native, an old friend. If Kirby – who is best known in the States for his turn as the actor cast as Romeo on the Canadian comedy series Slings and Arrows – was exhausted after the 24-hour whirlwind of premiere and press, he didn’t show it as he waxed enthusiastically about a film that is dear to his heart and explained how he related it to an actor’s life.
Q: When Margot and Daniel meet, she talks about how much she hates to be in between things. It’s funny that Sarah, an actor, wrote those lines, because that is kind of the actor’s permanent condition. Given how much of the movie is about just that, being in between, how do you feel about that or do you ever even think about it?
A: As I get older, there is this kind of interesting feeling of untetheredness. I’ve been trying to find a home somehow in my own personal life. It’s really been reassuring, life-wise, to know that I can actually attempt that. In many ways, I felt like I was just going to be a vagabond for life. In some ways I will be, but I’ve been really lucky the last couple of years to have a sense of home to some degree that has sort of allowed me to find that, although the die was cast, it isn’t as serious as I thought it was going to be. I think everyone’s sort of allowed to find home.
Q: That’s another interesting thing in the movie, because Margot already has what should be home and she’s rejecting it.
A: She says she doesn’t like being in between places, but she might really like being in between places. For me, I know one of the things that feeds the appetite to do this is kind of enjoying that place. It can feel at times really freeing. It can feel utterly terrifying at other times, but knowing that I can do it inside the context of work is a great place to kind of work through that impulse. But I think Margot, I don’t know if in some ways she likes it necessarily, but her comfort zone kind of is on the ride and she just hates it when it stops.
Q: She is such a piece of work in the way she messes with both guys’ heads, perhaps without meaning to do so, but that’s the effect.
A: It’s interesting. I haven’t been able to quite detach myself when I see it from the experience of doing it, of what Daniel goes through with this kind of light being cast on his otherwise dark world through Margot. I see the kind of beauty of that. I see the poetry of it, but at a distance I can see how incredibly frustrating … she’s in a very frustrating place.
Q: You say that you’ve been trying to find a home. What does home mean to you?
A: For me, family is tied into it somehow, whatever family is. It can be friends. It can be environment, landscape. Flora and fauna can be home. Whatever it is, it’s something that sort of speaks to you and it’s something you feel matches the beat of your heart. That’s that home that we kind of look for that if we were privileged enough to feel that at any time in our childhood, we would consistently want to have something similar somewhere along the line.
Q: How long have known Sarah?
A: Ten years, but she and I have worked together only once prior to this, which was on a film called Luck, and we worked it together as actors. I adore her as an actor. I think she’s a really, really funny person and incredibly bright and intelligent and engaged in a way that’s kind of a little bit off-putting initially, but such a kind of blessing to get to be around.
It was just that one time that we worked together, but over the years, we’d touch base every so often. This was sort of our latest way of touching base, which really, really added to an already delicious cake.
Q: Given your prior relationship, did the two of you talk about this project at all before you read the script?
A: We didn’t talk. I got the script, which I think was probably the right thing to do. Those are the bones of what you’re looking at. You can then see if there is any possibility of fleshing it out or not. I was really somewhat haunted by the story. In many ways – just off the bat, reading it strictly as a reader – I could relate to Margot especially. I knew I couldn’t play her. I knew Sarah wanted me to read for Daniel. But then we actually read some scenes and it flowed very nicely.
I kind of felt, because of the scope of the production, that Sarah was sort of just doing a kindness of involving me on some level. I didn’t really think that it was going to go anywhere.
Q: Why would you think that?
A: It was just one of those things that you tell yourself that, because this profession is so hard to – attachment is so difficult. It’s such an exercise in control and release all the time. When you read something that you feel so attached to, depending on how you work and how quickly you dive in, if you’re not careful, it can be utterly heartbreaking to find out it’s not going to move any further. If you’re not careful, you can fall into a sort of deep melancholy for ages thinking about it. So in some ways, I think I was saying that to keep that from happening, just shut down and keep quiet.
Q: So when you found out it was a go and it was you –
A: I was really, really quite happy.
Q: So who is Daniel to you?
A: I think when we meet him it’s very possible that he’s as lost, if not more lost than Margot. I think he’s a very lonely, lonely man and when he meets Margot, the dawn breaks and his world is filled with light and color. I think he just feels compelled toward her. It isn’t something by design. He isn’t an architect of seduction or anything. He’s caught on the same ride as her. There she is. To him, either the gods have dictated it or the cosmos has dictated it, but it feels like something that he’s been thrust into, that has been unleashed and he can’t look away from it. The siren song has been calling. – Pam Grady