I was five minutes late because I'm a chronic screw-up but Pete Travis couldn't have been more patient or forgiving. I'm doubly impressed by his zen calm when he tells me he starts shooting another feature in four days. I assume out loud that doing press at a film festival is the last thing he needs, but he says he's grateful for the respite from a constantly-ringing phone. Later Travis, who gives off a major Ben Mendelsohn vibe in person, will compare big-budget filmmaking to lying on the beach; if we'd ordered drinks, I would've had what he's having.
Travis came to this year's TIFF with his follow-up to the sensational Dredd, the London-set City of Tiny Lights, in tow. Starring the charming, ubiquitous Riz Ahmed, it's about a detective (Brits, including Travis, favour the term "gumshoe") whose search for a missing prostitute brings him in touch with his own tragic past. It's a conventional hard-boiled whodunit--the genre has survived by being incorruptibly formulaic, allowing it to comment on modern times by throwing into relief our changing mores and values--with one glaring exception: only one of the main characters is white. It's fascinating how deceptively fresh this makes it feel. My major complaint after the movie was over was that it retreats from those Chinatown places that would give it resonance beyond its enlightened casting (screenwriter Patrick Neale, adapting his own novel, scaled back on his book's doom and gloom considerably), but upon spending some time with Travis, I came to see the optimism of City of Tiny Lights as deeply personal to a serene and hopeful man.
We spoke on September 15, 2016 at the Azure Restaurant & Bar in the InterContinental Toronto Centre.