One of the most fascinating films to be premièred at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival was Anais Granofsky’s The Limb Salesman, an eerie look at the future-past where water is the most precious substance and body parts go to the highest bidder. JWR spoke with the film’s star, Peter Stebbings, a.k.a. Dr. Gabriel Goode during one of TIFF’s frenzied media blitzes.
Last things first. Your final scene, coming back to consciousness, all alone with a horrid truth is riveting. How did you achieve that level of intensity?
I used what was personal to me. But I had to wait seven years after my mother’s death to finally let it go. I felt so wound up, so tight … I replayed that containment and sense of loss. The whole waking up thing, still living; it was incredible.
The prequel should be made. How did Dr. Goode loose his heart in the first place?
Let’s put that to Anais. How did you connect with her?
In ‘98 I moved to Toronto to do the last two seasons of Traders (Stebbings played banker Paul Deeds). Anais was finishing up her role as Lucy (Degrassi High) and we began bumping into each other at a café frequented by actors and gradually got to know each other. The next thing I knew she was writing and directing her second (quick on the heels of Have Mercy, 1999) feature, On Their Knees and offered me the part of Sam Walker. The storyline is a moving family journey (two half-sisters who long ago went their separate ways reunite after the passing of their grandmother), which also involves death and the cold (the siblings transport their dearly departed in a refrigerated ice cream truck). I enjoyed the whole experience. Anais is a great person to work with: she directs with grace and treats her audience with respect.
Where was The Limb Salesman shot?
Like so many Canadian productions, it’s amazing that anything gets made; the financing always seems to come in right at the last possible moment. We not only got it done but had a great time in the process. We shot two weeks in Guelph—I’ll never forget how cold it was on the first day—thankfully, the snow arrived on cue. Even in February, nothing’s guaranteed in Canada. The other location week was in Toronto’s Distillery district. That was used for the lab of the DNA regenerator (Julian Richings). It was the perfect setting for the film’s plot line of water as a commodity.
In the story, Canada’s government is long gone, replaced by those who’ve managed to survive a massive re-ordering of the planet. Is it all fiction?
The film is constructed with a retro-future look. The house is filled with Victorian antiques—most of the clothing is from bygone eras. I even wear a navel-length necktie. That’s a huge contrast to the scientific advances, especially growing replacement body parts that have changed my character’s outlook forever. But throughout the film the growing unease of the “grunts’” revolt (the underground water mines are collapsing and killing the slave labour) is beautifully balanced by the love story between myself and Clara (Ingrid Veninger portrays the initially legless woman whose abusive husband, Abe—Clark Johnson, engages the Doctor’s special replacement services) and the screen is filled with many long, loving looks even as our greater tragedy unfolds. We are Dick and Jane versus the World in this romantic comedy for cynics.
Earlier that day, Clark Johnson put it this way: “I think it’s a cool little film, so I hope it gets seen.”
Do look for it. JWR