FOR the second time in Daniel Radcliffe’s film career, he has a single movie going out into the English-speaking world with two titles.
The first time, back in 2001, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, as it was titled in Canada and the U.K. was called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the U.S., presumably because the studio felt audiences would be scared off by the word "philosopher."
Scarier still was the title The F Word, the name of the Canadian romantic comedy opening in theatres Friday, Aug. 22. It is still titled The F Word in Canada, but south of the border, it’s saddled with the bland, meaningless monicker What If.
Blame the Motion Picture Association of America, the ratings body that arbitrates not just classifications but advertising and, yes, titles. The "F" in F Word stands for "friend" (although it clearly gets some comic mileage from the double-entendre). But try telling that to the MPAA.
"They said, ‘Unless you’re going to make your film R-rated, you can’t call it that,’" Radcliffe explains, adding that, because the film was titled The F Word when it premièred at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013, that title was retained for Canadian audiences.
It turns out Canadians are more liberal when it comes to film content, too. Radcliffe refers to one of his lines of dialogue in which his character, a medical-school dropout, has to invent an example of an outrageous sex act.
"In Canada, you can say ‘masturbating onto a kitten,’" Radcliffe says. "In America, it had to be redubbed ‘masturbating in your kitchen.’"
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One shouldn’t be surprised this kind of off-colour controversy might arise in a film by Michael Dowse, the man who gave us the raunchy comedies Goon and Fubar.
But given the rawness and violence of those films, one might be surprised that Dowse would be interested in making a flat-out romcom, given the sensibilities of his past work.
"I’ve actually dealt with romance a lot," Dowse says during the Winnipeg stopover of a cross-country promotional jaunt.
"It’s in the subplot of four of my movies. I was excited to make it the first story, the Aplot of a movie.
"I was always a big fan of the genre and I thought the time was right for a really great movie in that genre," he says. "I also wanted to see something completely different coming off Goon, which was highly violent.
"I wanted to do something a little quieter, a little more mature and maybe something where the actors are in-the-frame acting and not necessarily creating the moments in editing."
In that task, he had an ally in Radcliffe as the 25-year-old actor moves beyond his Harry Potter persona.
"He is great. Daniel Radcliffe is great," Dowse asserts. "He’s got a long career ahead of him, his head’s screwed on right. He’s grounded and he’s very talented. He’s also funny, funny, funny. That’s the big takeaway people will get from this.
"You’ll finally see his sense of humour shine through. And actually, you’ll see him playing a part that’s closest to him as a person."
Dowse also sets out to give a new perspective to another star in The F Word: the city of Toronto.
Hogtown plays itself in the film, and Dowse welcomed the opportunity to show it in a warmer romantic light, compared with Canadian films of the past. (Consider how Toronto also plays itself in films such as David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, Atom Egoyan’s Exotica and Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy.) "I always wanted to show a warner side to the city and how romantic it is and how beautiful it is, because it is beautiful, but it always gets a cold, clinical treatment to it, which I don’t think does it justice," Dowse says. "Obviously, it’s a romance, so you want it to feel like a warm vibrant place."